Friday, February 8, 2013

The newly privatized Statistical Abstract of the United States: or, interesting Wal-Mart quality check on Aisle 949.

So, after the feds cut the funding from the Census Department for the print version of the Statistical Abstract of the United States a couple of years ago, it was announced with great fanfare that this wouldn’t be a problem because the assembly and sales of the print version would be privatized. I admit my inner publishing geek was a wee bit skeptical of this turn of events. But my practical governmental cost reduction side was interested to see how it would all turn out.

So, today Monique picked up what she thought would be her new copy of StatAb today, a 2012-2013 version from a company named Skyhorse Publishing that at the time she searched for a copy she could oddly enough only find through Wal-Mart online. (It looks as if it is now also available via Amazon and Skyhorse's own site.)

Since I – like all right-thinking people everywhere – judge a reference book by the subject access granted by its index, I decided to peruse the index to see what it looked like.  But I had a bit of difficulty finding the index.  So, assuming I was missing it somewhere among the appendixes, I went to the table of contents:

Ah, page 949.  Okay, let’s go to page 949 … page 949 … well, here’s page 948, and … it’s the last page of the book.

Yeah. They omitted the index and published the book without it.

In fact, it looks like all Skyhorse did was to pull the PDFs of the Census Bureau edition off the Census Bureau's website, slap their own copyright on it, and then publish it ... without the freaking index. Presumably they secured the rights through the Census Department, and if so it means that they couldn't even be bothered to include an index they got for free.

I mourn for future generations.

P.S. It looks as if the new 2013 hardcover edition from ProQuest is now on Amazon for just $179, a wee price increase over the $25 per edition of the Census Bureau's version. All hail the wonders and cost savings of privatization!

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