Dec 01

The whole notion of what a book IS, is changing. Everyone knows that, right? You don’t have to be a reader of books in digital form, as I have been for more than five years, to appreciate that what we read, how we read, is changing. Beauty from Afar kind of got caught in the early stages of all this change. My publisher did not release it as an e-book in 2006. I’m guessing that if BFA was released in 2009, there would have been an e-book. And I would further guess that if it were a book of its sort five years from now, it might be published only as an e-book.

Not that I think “real,” paper books are going away entirely, anytime soon. But there will be less of them, and more digital books. The fact is, Beauty from Afar is one of those works that would have been better as an e-book, in some future time of e-book ubiquity.

Why? There would have been pictures, lots of pictures. And the Internet addresses — URLs — would have been clickable and that would have changed how I wrote the book, too. I am of the opinion that URLs do not belong in paper books except maybe in foot- or end notes.

Nonetheless, I had no choice but to put them in, for people who might read the book and then want to go to their computers and type them in. I tried to put in as few as I could … I think they are wrong for printed books. They are impermanent.

There are quite a few of them in today’s page. Now, at least, they are clickable.

Chapter 5 Page 2 | Medical Travel and Cosmetic Surgery: Top Resources

Oct 22

Our little history lesson continues today with a segment about how a plastic surgeon in Costa Rica started marketing to the U.S. market in the early 1980s; and continues with a discussion of a somewhat prescient World Bank report on prospects for health tourism exports in the Caribbean.

Chapter 3 Page 3 | Build It, and They Will Come …

I thought I’d be sailing through Chapter 3 easily but have had a lot of reformatting to do from the version of Beauty from Afar from which I am working … which I have now realized is probably the penultimate digital copy. Aaaaiiieee! An alert reader, Debbie, caught a mistake the other day in which I had named someone other than Alexandre Dumas as author of The Three Musketeers. Fortunately, the error was fixed before the book was printed. I do remember how I felt when I found the mistake initially — after I’d “finished” writing the book and after it had been twice edited. I felt both as though I’d dodged a bullet and as though I was nearly too stupid to live.

There are a couple of minor errors in the paper version of Beauty from Afar. It is nice to have the opportunity to fix them.

I used to be appalled when I found typos or any kind of mistakes in books. How could it happen? Well — now I know the answer. It can happen in all sorts of ways. Human beings are involved. With Beauty from Afar, they mostly happened because I was allowed to fuss with and add things right up until the last second — as though we were producing a newspaper story instead of a book. Overall, I think the additions and last-minute changes made for a better book … but there is a tradeoff. Typos, however minor, are just disheartening.

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Oct 01

There was a time when I thought that perhaps I ought to put myself forward as a reasonable candidate to be the caretaker and editor of Wikipedia’s entry for medical tourism.

Upon careful consideration, I realized that I would rather stick my hand in a bee’s nest. This is nothing against Wikipedia, which I think is a wonderful project; and I conclude Chapter 1 of Beauty from Afar with some direct quotes from Wikipedia. It was remarkable how the entry for “Medical Tourism” evolved in a short time:

Chapter 1 Page 9 | Medical Tourism: A Moving Target

… And the reasons which I am glad I did not become, or try to become, the Wikipedia editor of the page, are not yet apparent, in the above-linked passage from Beauty from Afar.

If you look at the current entry, you’ll see that it has evolved through a contentious few years. Many people have added and deleted and bitterly disputed sentences, paragraphs and sections of the entry, over time. It has been a bone over which dogs of the medical tourism industry fought. I make no apologies for the analogy. Medical tourism “experts” in every country with any claim to being a medical travel destination have vied to define the reality of medical travel. Bias was inevitable.

The entry is not so bad now as it was at a few stages in its evolution. For a partial discussion of the issue of bias, take a look at the Wikipedia “Talk” page on the Medical tourism definition/entry.

Bees sting.

Anyway — Chapter 1 of Beauty from Afar is now posted completely. It is in 9 online pages, rather than the 18 in the printed version of the book. I do have to add the end notes to the chapter but have decided to go back and insert them as footnotes to the appropriate pages in this online edition; so I’ll probably do that tomorrow, before commencing with Chapter 2.

Also, a technical note: I have made BeautyfromAfar.com a dofollow blog, which means that links on this blog have relevance to search engines. Many blogs use a “nofollow” default, meant to discourage comment spam. I don’t see the point, since I delete comment spam and blatant marketing attempts with extreme prejudice. If you have something to add to the discussion here, I want you to get credit for doing so, with a link from your name to your site, at least. (And if you don’t understand this paragraph, it probably doesn’t apply to you.)

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Sep 25

… and I am quite sure I am the only one who noticed.

Here is what should have been yesterday’s update:

60 Minutes and Medical Tourism Part 2

And yesterday’s update, of course, should have come today:

Vignettes … Didi, Fabio … Part 3

I fixed the internal navigation of the site. And if I haven’t mentioned it before — I will be wildly grateful to anyone who points out any technical or factual errors I might make in the course of publishing the text of Beauty from Afar.

The 60 Minutes show in 2005 that featured Bumrungrad International hospital in Thailand did much to legitimize medical tourism in the United States.  It spurred more serious journalistic coverage of the subject and, thereafter, people who went abroad for medical care were treated with a little more respect.

It also got the attention of my publisher, which asked me if I could write Beauty from Afar faster than I had agreed. By contract, I owed them the book in January 2006. After some hemming and hawing and looking at the calendar, I said I could turn it in by October 2005.

It was April 2005 at this point. I was saying, “Sure, I can write this in six months.” And I did.


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Sep 22

So the introduction to Beauty from Afar is now completely online. The concluding segment is Competition for the United States.

The intro seems short to me, maybe because I vaguely remember agonizing over writing it a few short years ago. There are only five segments; in the physical book, the introduction is only nine pages. Online, it is just five.

But it says what it needed to say. The difficulty in writing it, originally, was in deciding what to leave out; what to save for later. That was where having written a book proposal came in really handy. I trusted my outline.

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Sep 18

I recall that one of my favorite moments in researching Beauty from Afar came not from the travel and not from the interesting people I met along the way. It was in finding out that Michael Crichton had written about medical tourism in — of all books! — Jurassic Park.

I’m not making this up; and the information made it into the introduction as a short section, which I added today.

I’m finding that I have to edit the text of Beauty from Afar, onscreen, with an actual copy of the book on my lap. The digital version I have to work with is missing words, occasionally, and is also entirely … mispunctuated. (Is that a word?) This is because I’m working from a Quark file turned into an Acrobat file, from which I copy and paste text into a text file, and then massage it.  Copy changes and even vanishes. Note to any other authors who try this: Yes, of course you could use the final version you submitted to your publisher in MS Word, or whatever. But … are you sure that’s the final version of the book?

P.S. The physical copy of Beauty from Afar has 215 pages. When I started this project, I thought that this online version would … mimic that. It made sense to me … the book has some 65,000 words and I thought that 300 or so at a time would be about right. And given that I’d like this project to at least pay for itself, I thought that having 215 pages with advertisements was not a bad idea.

Just a few days in, though, I’ve discovered what you would have, soon enough, if I had stuck to the plan. Page breaks are artifical and annoying unless you have pages you can turn immediately. (Well, it bothers me, anyway.)  So I’m repaginating as I go. This online version of Beauty from Afar, I’m thinking, will be more like 100 pages, in the end. I intend that each page will end as unjarringly as possible. There are no “widowed” words in the book; there will be no widowed paragraphs in the online version.

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