April 7, 2003

The first timer

By Eric Rangus

For a first-time author, writing that debut book can be stressful, but not for Tonio Andrade, assistant professor of history. Andrade, who is spending his first year on campus, may be in the middle of researching his first book and learning the ins and outs of a new department, but stress is hardly the emotion that rules his days. For him, it's an adventure.

“It’s exciting,” said Andrade, speaking specifically about his writing but probably a few other things as well. He came to Emory last fall after two years on the faculty at SUNY-Brockport. “You get the feeling of being a pioneer. It’s like being part of a movement.” That’s because Andrade’s first manuscript isn’t an ordinary book. Once it’s finished, it will be released in an innovative but unproven format—as an eBook.

eBooks, or electronic books, are just that—books that are available online. Instead of purchasing a book and storing it on a shelf, readers buy access to eBooks, which can then be read on the web. No storage or dusting necessary.

It’s a new technology that is growing, but its penetration is still limited and its future unknown. In the not-always-quick-to-accept-change academic community, the jury is still out on the future impact of eBooks.

Emory, however, has taken steps to recognize their importance. At the behest of history Chair James Melton, the faculty agreed that eBooks will be equivalent to traditional books in tenure decisions.

In 2001, Andrade was one of six scholars awarded a Gutenberg-e Prize. The prizes were launched by the American Historical Association (and funded in part by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation) in 1999 to support the publication of history dissertations. A half-dozen will be given out each year to scholars through 2004.

With the prize comes a research fellowship of $20,000, and to receive the fellowship the author agrees to convert his or her dissertation into an electronic monograph—an eBook to be published by the Columbia University Press.

At the time of the award, Andrade was already in negotiations with two elite university presses about expanding his dissertation into a book. It was then that he had to make a major decision. Accepting the fellowship meant that his book would be published online only.

“It was a hard decision, because it’s not clear what’s going to happen to eBooks and ePublishing,” Andrade said. “There are advantages and disadvantages, but I just went with it. It’s definitely exciting.”

And the Gutenberg program does a good job of taking care of its writers. Authors attend a variety of workshops and also have a very close relationship with editors—much closer than that of other publishing houses. Since everyone’s blazing new trails together, it makes sense to make sure the team is tight.

Another thing is definite: Members of the Emory community will be able to read Andrade’s debut. University Libraries already subscribes to several eBooks and online journals, and anyone with access to the library stacks also will have access to Andrade’s book.

The book, whose working title is How Taiwan Became Chinese: Imperial Rivalries and Co-Colonization in the 17th Century, is an extension of Andrade’s Yale doctoral dissertation, “Commerce, Culture and Conflict: Taiwan Under European Rule, 1623–1662.”

Andrade will tell the story of how the Chinese colonized Taiwan while Europeans nominally ruled it. The Dutch and Spanish, who were expanding their empires in the 17th century, had designs on the island that became known as Taiwan, but they had few colonists. The Chinese had multitudes of people and resources just 160 miles away across the Taiwan Strait but no state support with which to colonize the island, which at the time was inhabited solely by aboriginal peoples.

By 1700, more than 100,000 Chinese colonists were on the island. Because of Taiwan’s proximity to the mainland, Chinese colonization was probably inevitable, but it was the European presence that spurred the colonization at that time. It’s a story that has received little attention from English-language historians, which is one of the reasons Andrade was drawn to it. “There is this conjuncture: European states foster Chinese colonization,” Andrade said.

Andrade became an East Asian historian somewhat by accident. As an undergraduate at Reed College in Portland, Ore., he studied biology and neurophysiology but soon realized there could be communication issues down the road if he continued on in the sciences.

“I wanted to study Chinese because [most] of the graduate students in science were Chinese-speakers and I wanted to be able to communicate with them,” said Andrade, a native of Salt Lake City. “So I did that, and I lived abroad in Taiwan. While I was there, I realized that I didn’t want to study science; I wanted to do something in the humanities.”

Upon returning to the States, Andrade declared his major as anthropology, in which he earned his bachelor’s. In graduate school, he shifted his focus to history—first European intellectual history early modern global history, specifically Sino-European interactions in East Asia.

A focus of Andrade’s work was comparing Chinese and European colonization. In all, Andrade collected four graduate degrees in history: masters of arts from both the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Yale, a master of philosophy from Yale, and a Yale doctorate.

Andrade used his fellowship money to pay for a fall-semester stay in Taiwan to continue his research. His move to Atlanta included the flexibility that allowed him to work his first semester abroad. He spent a good deal of time in the library as well as traveling. Since the whole project is on a budget, and Andrade is responsible for illustrating the book himself, his fiancée Andrea, took pictures of the remains of several of Dutch and Spanish forts on the island among other things.

Since coming to campus in January, Andrade has eased his way into the Emory flow. He is teaching just one class this semester: “Pirates: Maritime Coercion in Comparative Perspective,” a look at the history of global piracy. In the fall, Andrade will teach his first Chinese history class on campus, “From Ming to Mao and Beyond: The History of Modern China.” Over the summer Andrade said he plans to finish his research for the book and start whipping the manuscript into shape. Part of that time may include a final trip to the Netherlands. As a Fulbright fellow, he spent a year there researching his dissertation. Andrade said his goal is to finish the book by the end of 2004.

While he is still learning about the history department and Emory in general, Andrade said he is enthusiastic about its direction. “There is a strong Latin American program here, a strong early-modern program and a very good African program,” Andrade said. “But what’s cool about it is that people are really interested in connecting the different parts of the program.

“I think one of the most exciting developments in history as a field right now is global history—looking at interconnections between people. This department is perfect to bring that to the fore.”