The Write Stuff: Authors Wanted! : Pipes and Tobaccos Magazine

The Write Stuff: Authors Wanted!

The singular purpose in writing this article is to encourage every pipe aficionado—smoker, collector, historian, researcher and tradesman—to consider making a written contribution to pipe lore.
Ben Rapaport

Through the years I have met some pretty savvy pipe experts and enthusiasts who have the intelligence, knowledge, know-how and passion for this hobby, and I know that many have something worthwhile and informative to say but don’t know how or where to get started. I am convinced that much about our own lengthy tobacco and pipe history has yet to be uncovered, discovered, mined, researched, investigated and then etched in printer’s ink, not electrons, for permanency. In this zany electronic world of the World Wide Web, I need to remind all the savvy Pipe & Tobacco Internet-ers, in tongue-in-cheek fashion, that by writing “printer’s ink” I am referring to those portable, durable, flexible, affordable, lightweight, wireless, battery- and switch-free Built-in Orderly & Organized Knowledge devices that never crash, do not require rebooting and can be programmed using a low-cost No. 2 Portable Erasable-Nib Cryptic Intercommunication Language stylus.

Seriously, though, as an author since 1972 with six books and more than 100 articles in print, I offer this guide to stimulate and energize, maybe even inspire, all the would-be penmen—and women—among us to become in-fact authors. The views expressed herein are wholly my own, and as you read, you’ll fully understand my rationale … and my appeal!

In the February 1992 issue of Wine Spectator, its publisher, Marvin R. Shanken, announced that a new magazine for the cigar connoisseur would debut later that year. Considering the timing of this press release—during the growing anti-tobacco movement—Shanken was betting against the odds, but he was a man of his word, and the promised glossy, quarterly magazine launched in September 1992, and in 1997, it went bimonthly. In its early life it was CIGAR
Aficionado, and in 2000, the logo was changed to cigar aficionado; notice that “cigar” is now height challenged! Some say that when this magazine hit the newsstands, it resurrected a moribund cigar industry. The folks who track tobacco industry statistics claim that the first serious increase in U.S. cigar consumption since 1970 occurred in 1994, and although 1994’s stats were not anywhere close to cigar consumption of the 1960s, there is little doubt as to who and what were responsible for the rejuvenation of the cigar. It’s reported that in that same year, this magazine’s circulation was 141,000, and in 1996, it nearly tripled to 400,000. Ten years later, in 2006, annual circulation was 1,440,000, having tripled once again. By comparison, Pipes and tobaccos is the only viable journal that has been feeding our information appetite since 1996, and it looks like it’ll stay a quarterly. In its Winter 2007 issue, the statement of ownership indicated that the number of copies in circulation was 12,555—the Winter 2008 issue reports paid circulation at 10,227—less than 1 percent of Cigar Aficionado’s circulation during the same period. These numbers, I believe, dramatize a significant, cultural difference between these two communities of smokers (more about this later), but that’s another story altogether. A couple other pipe magazines have come and gone, and I am not aware of any new, slick contender on the near horizon. But magazine articles are notorious for being short on words and long on pictures, leaving the curious reader hungry for more.

Actually Cigar Aficionado accomplished much, much more—it spawned a proverbial mania. In a matter of just a few years, this magazine had created an unanticipated feeding frenzy: the forests of America were razed, and trees were felled at light speed to produce a flurry of other cigar magazines and, more in line with the central theme of this article, a veritable host of cigar books, more than 50 (!) just in English in less than a decade. Evidently, even in these anti-tobacco times, publishing houses have been willing to take on cigar books without concern for financial risk or public backlash. Prior to this avalanche of cigar literature in the 1990s, the last release in the United States was nearly 40 years ago, a rather forgettable, soft-cover primer: J.B. Back, The Pleasures of Cigar Smoking (1971).

All those hyperactive cigar mavens and puro experts now seem to have writer’s cramp, because many of those new cigar-lover magazines have now evaporated, and new cigar books are arriving on store bookshelves with much less frequency than in the mid-1990s to early 2000s. Maybe this frenetic cigar activity has ebbed, but what I find strange is that this fervor, this excitement has had zero impact or spin-off influence on its brother social custom, pipe smoking, during the same period. Conducting a GPS-like survey of our own literature, my type of reality check, there has been no equivalent surge in new books about pipes or pipe smoking in many a year. Sure, there was that brief spate of books from Rick Hacker in the mid- to late 1990s, but in the last few years, just an occasional book here, another there: Jung, Newcombe, Schrier, Stokkebye, Taylor, Unger and the most recent, Worth. How does one explain that Rick Newcombe’s In Search of Pipe Dreams (2003) is now available in German, yet Rolf Joachim Rutzen, author of Pfeifen (1999), one of the best-researched briar pipe books in German, saw his opus translated into Italian just one year later, but he could not convince his publisher, Heyne Verlag, or any other publisher that a market existed for his excellent book in English? And it’s also strange that the Portuguese have recently chimed in: Lopes, Cachimbos (2004)/Pipes (2005), and now Lombardo, O, Cachimbo (2007). This is, indeed, significant, because the Portuguese are not big pipe smokers, and very few are notable pipe makers. We’re a bigger country than Portugal with many more pipe smokers and collectors, so, in theory, we should be experiencing a steady diet of new hobby books! Ever ask yourself why we’re not? Here’s what I think.

The current rage in information is the now-popular alternate source, the free Internet—lots of pipe-friendly Web sites, blogs and chat rooms—and I’ve found some stuff, but forgive me, not much of substance. Many of these Internet sites are viewed with suspicion, scary places full of potentially inaccurate, potentially dangerous misinformation and raw, unfiltered opinion. Expecting to encounter the digital Holy Grail or Delphic Oracle on everything you ever wanted to know about tobacco pipes I have learned is, quite often, a futile, often aimless, exercise. As someone wiser than I said recently, “Ninety percent of writing published online isn’t worth the server space it’s stored on.” The good stuff is certainly not on Wikipedia, the encyclopedia edited and maintained by thousands of users around the world. Isn’t husbanding this multilingual, free-content encyclopedia globally akin to having way too many cooks in the kitchen messin’ with the broth? Finding good stuff online isn’t at all like the promise of the search engine, “Instant Getification.” This engine is gettable to all who use the Internet, but the information that resides on it is neither instant nor guaranteed gettable. Then, what’s left for us to read? Books, of course, but they’re not free; however, when you’ve finished reading a book, you can keep it, sell it, donate it, give it to a friend, even trash it. Try doing any of these things with zeros and ones!


A few pipe folks who have neither the financial resources nor the literary credentials have recently turned to just-in-time printers, such as and, to get their short essays and monographs into the public domain as either a low-cost digital print or an Internet download, but these few contributions are not substantial, in-depth treatises. (Admittedly, the Web aids in making the writing of a book better and faster, but accessing a specific URL to read the text is not the same as owning the real McCoy, a book.) Those who have gone this route may not realize that plenty of avid pipe smokers do not now nor ever will own a computer—they are committed Luddites—yet they will always buy another book about their hobby if it’s available on the open market.  Sadly, what’s on the Web and those aforementioned, occasional book efforts do not measure up to that tidal wave, that explosive information overload that occurred for the cigar smoker in a short span of about 10 years.

Where am I going with all this? If you’ve got an idea, a concept, a theme, a topic or a field of inquiry but have yet to ratchet up your courage and determination to seriously consider putting your thoughts into print, read on.

To begin, having been there, done that (no T-shirt), I know where almost all the bodies are hidden—the accessible stuff —although I admit that the very best stuff is the preserve of pipe and tobacco companies: their records, files, correspondence and catalogs. That stuff probably bears a commercial security classification of TOP SACRED and is not gettable by just anybody; you have to be a tobacco industry insider for access. The next best (and obvious) place to search for source materials is the library, and there are libraries with tobacco credentials. The accompanying table displays a list of libraries that retain a more than respectable inventory of tobacco and pipe books and related literature. I choose not to assess or grade their respective holdings; being a tobacco bibliophile for more than 50 years, I would evaluate their holdings from a different perspective than a would-be author.


Significant Tobacco Book Collections





Howard S. Cullman Library 

Tobacco Merchants Association

P.O. Box 8019

Princeton, NJ 08543-8019

The TMA is a trade association, established in 1915. It maintains tobacco industry archives and a data bank drawn from more than 10,000 domestic and international sources (more than 8,000 books, pamphlets and magazine articles) on every aspect of tobacco from the 1860s forward. Unfortunately, the archives are accessible only to members. (If you have a friend in the trade, he may be able to get you in.)

Bancroft Library

University of California, Berkeley

Berkeley, CA 94720-6000

Some 500 titles; no catalog; a copy of the shelf list can be purchased.
D.H. Hill Library 

North Carolina State University

2 Broughton Drive

Raleigh, NC 27695

In the words of a library staff assistant: “N.C. State University Tobacco Book Collections include thousands of rare and core materials covering all aspects of tobacco production, agriculture, technology and social-cultural implications with works from 1605 to the present.” See Marin bibliographies cited in text.
Robert Hays Gries Tobacco Collection 

John G. White Department

Cleveland Public Library

325 Superior Ave.

Cleveland, OH 44114-1271

About 1,000 rare books in several languages (English, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Latin) on the history and customs related to tobacco use. This collection is among the library’s most significant, with works dating from the 15th to the 20th centuries and represented in a variety of formats. (Gries was an avid collector of books on other eclectic topics, such as chess and the history of prostitution.)
William R. Perkins Library 

Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library

Duke University

104 Chapel Drive

Durham, NC 27708;

P.O. Box 90185

Durham, NC 27708-0185

According to Ms. Janie C. Morris, research services librarian, the Perkins Library also received a substantial gift from George Arents. She writes: “The gift was several hundred volumes pertaining to tobacco, including the duplicates from the New York Public Library Arents Tobacco Collection. This collection has been further augmented through the years. I am told by a colleague that after the New York Public Library, Duke probably has the next best collection of rare volumes on tobacco.”
Center for the Study of Tobacco and Society 

College of Community Health Sciences

University of Alabama

174 Nott Hall

P.O. Box 870327

Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-2163

Large inventory of books, magazines, three-dimensional artifacts mostly targeted on the cigarette industry. As of spring 2006, the center, which opened only a few years ago, now houses the Thomas A. Dunn library of tobacco books. More about the Dunn Library appears in the spring 2008 issue of Pipes & Tobaccos
George Arents Tobacco Collection 

New York Public Library, Room 328

Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street

New York, NY 10018-2788

The premier collection with materials dating back to 1507. It contains more than 10,000 books and 1,000 manuscripts of every conceivable variety and interest, all with any mention of tobacco or smoking. The Arents bibliographies are cited in the text (


Of late, many universities and several nonprofit organizations and associations have begun to assemble a substantial tobacco library, the focus of which might be litigation, health, nicotine, science, passive smoking, addiction, toxicology, etc. This has become a burgeoning cottage industry ever since the start of the class-action suits against the tobacco industry. Their inventories, however, are not suitable for the conduct of tobacco historical, socio-cultural or industry research and, therefore, are not included in this table.

Every library has different rules on book management and oversight. At the libraries listed in the table, the books are probably on the reference shelf or in the rare book room, not in open stacks. You can’t take them home, but you can use them on site. If one of those listed in the table is not nearby, then visit your local library and try to get access to the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) database; more than 57,000 libraries in 112 countries and territories around the world use OCLC services to locate, acquire, catalog, lend and preserve library materials. In your search, you may discover that several libraries retain a book, a trade catalog, a monograph, a report, a survey or a dissertation that responds to your theme. If the reference librarian is responsive, he or she will generate an Interlibrary Loan (ILL) request to get that item for you. There are endless search avenues to pursue with this database.

Here’s a true story. I spotted The First Report. The Meerschaum Company of America, Jan. 12, 1907, in the OCLC; it was located at the Tulane University Library, and the local library obtained it for me on an ILL request. This report was the genesis for “Unsolved History: The Meerschaum Company of America, an Early 20th Century Mining Venture in New Mexico” that was published in Pipes and tobaccos Winter 2004 issue. Until I saw this entry in the OCLC, I had not known about its existence—the only annual report of this company on file in open sources—and I had no previous information about this company in my own files. I don’t even know why Tulane University Library owned this publication. Obviously, I needed additional information gleaned from various other primary and secondary sources to add flesh to the bones for a story worthy of publication. This is just one example of many in my writing experience where I took the time to randomly search for the unknown and unknowable in a global library database … and struck pay dirt.

There is a less robust library locator than the OCLC, but I have had poor results with it: The nice feature is its convenience: you can search from home, rather than at the local library. It provides a set of tools and community services for students to get their academic lives organized. Its features (not available on the OCLC) that can come into play when/if you decide to write are footnote and bibliography formatting and research bookmarking. Or you might try your luck searching the assorted resources on the Internet Library for Librarians Web site ( stuff you can find in libraries just might give you the Energizer® Bunny boost to eventually translate your idea into a realized manuscript.

Another practical starting point for any writing endeavor is to determine what is already in print on a particular topic. This brings to mind special bibliographies, and I offer those that I believe contain most primary sources. In English, the two oldest on books are: William Bragge, Bibliotheca Nicotiana; A First Catalogue of Books About Tobacco (1874), and an enlarged version, Bibliotheca Nicotiana; a Catalogue of Books About Tobacco, Together With A Catalogue of Objects Connected With the Use of Tobacco in All Its Forms (1880). In the 20th century, several bibliographies were published: (a) Jerome E. Brooks, Tobacco. Its History Illustrated by the Books, Manuscripts, and Engravings in the Library of George Arents Jr. (1938–1952), a five-volume set reprinted in 1998, and Sarah Augusta Dickson and Perry Hugh O’Neil, Tobacco. A Catalogue of the Books, Manuscripts and Engravings Acquired Since 1942 in the Arents Tobacco Collection at the New York Public Library from 1507 to the Present (1958–1969), a 10-volume set; (b) Carmen M. Marin (comp.), Tobacco. A Bibliography of Books at the D.H. Hill Library (1968), Tobacco Literature. A Bibliography of Publications in the United States Library of Congress (1970), and Tobacco Literature. A Bibliography (1979); (c) Susanne Atkin, Bibliography of Clay Pipe Studies (1989); and (d) my own, The Global Guide to Tobacco Literature (1989). And I want to single out at least one good online bibliography, the Tobacco Documents Bibliography ( at the Galen Digital Library, University of California, San Francisco. In his essay “Smoke This Book” in The New York Times Book Review, Dec. 2, 2007, Paul Collins reports that this library has some “… 40 million pages of internal tobacco industry documents archived online …” so it might contain some good stuff that’s not in any of the published bibliographies.

If you want to know what’s been published in journals, magazines and reviews on pipes, tobacco, cigars, cigarettes, snuff, accessories, etc., you need the product of the tireless efforts of Eugene “Gene” Umberger: Tobacco and Its Use: A Bibliography of the Periodical Literature (1984), and Tobacco and Its Use. A Bibliography of Periodical Literature, Essays, Short Stories, Poems, Theses and Dissertations, Chapters in Books, Book Reviews, Quotations, and Comparable Sources, With An Extensive Table of Contents and Finding Aid and An Index to Topical Categories (second edition, 1996). (The second edition’s title is quite the mouthful!) Don’t overlook one component in the title, “theses and dissertations.” Strange as it may seem, university and college students across the country pursuing advanced degrees have, from time to time, written theses and dissertations on tobacco history and smoking pipes, and Gene has captured many of these in his bibliography. He is now working on a third, expanded edition, but no date has been set for its release. (If you’re interested in purchasing a copy of Gene’s bibliography, contact me and I’ll put you in touch with him.) If you can’t find the precise subject matter that you’re looking for in any of these bibliographies, it might have been written but not published. Before you give up, however, try the search avenue next described.

There is one exception to my earlier critique of the Internet as a useful, reliable and robust source of accurate information, and that is Google Book Search, a controversial effort to scan and digitize every printed book at, some claim, a rate of about 3,000 per day. It is a fabulous search engine, a veritable goldmine of good stuff on just about any topic, and if you have not yet experimented with it, you’re missing out on the availability of this storehouse of primary sources! You’d be surprised at what you can find in both copyright and noncopyright material, if you choose the right search term(s). Rare books, 18th and 19th century journals, annals, patent information, diaries, fiction, foreign-language documents and tobacco company catalogs are some of the online goodies available for the fact-seeker. Google has spent millions to digitize the holdings of many large university libraries, and all these electrons are now available to us humanoids for free. Depending on the copyright, you might snag only a snippet or you might access the entire book as a downloadable PDF. In the last few years, this search engine has given me substance, sustenance and suggestions for my continuing writing endeavors.

The World Digital Library (WDL), now in the implementation phase, is a vision to digitize the accumulated wisdom of humankind. The WDL is a joint effort of the Library of Congress and the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. The WDL Web site ( will offer access to original documents, films, maps, photographs, manuscripts, musical scores and recordings, architectural drawings and other primary resources through a variety of search methods and in several languages. Content, initially stated as a few hundred thousand items, will be offered in late 2008 or early 2009. If all goes as planned, users can browse just about anything, e.g., the art of Egypt in the third century B.C. or the collected knowledge of the world in the 1600s. And if this is an accurate depiction of this enormously educational power tool, let’s call it Google Book Search100, then who knows how much and what kind of archived pipe and tobacco information from all the participating countries will reside on this engine in the very near future.

As an added thought, SIRIS, the Smithsonian Institution’s Research Information System ( may be of some use, because it offers an online library archive of “1.5 million printed books, manuscripts, periodicals, exhibition catalogs, professional society publications, and electronic versions of rare books and exhibitions,” a photography collection and more. With no disrespect to the New Testament’s Matthew 7:7, the Bible encourages its followers to seek, so “Seek (Google/WDL/SIRIS), and ye shall find”! And if you find an archived ort, snippet or tidbit of what you’re looking for on any of these search engines, that’s a running start to your future manuscript; get serious, dig more, deeper and wider, and you just might have enough grist for a book.

The virtual archives of the newspapers are also a great source of information. I have found some interesting tidbits, from time to time, about pipe and tobacco companies, briar pipe and amber manufacturers, retail pipe sales statistics, etc. The more popular newspapers maintaining an online search capability have digitized their columns well into the past. Three of note are The New York Times (1851), Los Angeles Times (1881), and The Washington Post (1877). You never know what you’ll find unless you look, and you may be quite surprised at the occasional literary lottery winnings for so little search time invested, proving that some old newspapers serve a purpose other than to wrap fish or line a kitty litterbox.

Do we need more books about this hobby? I can’t speak for the Everyman, but I have enjoyed owning and reading hem all, the factual, factoidal and fictional from the masters and from the pseudo-experts who claim expertise, as well as ‘the good, the bad and the ugly’ in writing styles. I am not in agreement with Alfred North Whitehead to whom the following catchphrase is attributed: “Everything of importance has been said before by somebody who did not discover it.” Much has not been said at all, not even once, when it comes to chronicling the evolution of the pipe around the globe or the lengthy history of tobacco and all the utensils and byproducts that this country has manufactured for several hundred years. There’s plenty that has yet to be put on record. Probably more than a few citizens of Pipeland might like to read, say, the history of BBB, Barling or Brebbia; the lifework of Alberto Bonfiglioli, Ed Burak or Mike Butera, or the retail legacy of Blatter & Blatter (and that’s just a few spontaneous ideas with the letter “B”); an illustrated retrospective of historic pipe tampers; briar pipe shapes and the origin of their names; a detailed, step-by-step, pictorial explanation of the processes in factory blending of pipe tobacco; or a global compendium of tinned tobaccos (by manufacturer, trade name and country of origin). What better enlightenment and entertainment than to read about what you smoke and collect? I’d like to think that just about everyone would get more smarts and derive greater enjoyment from reading a new book on pipe lore than spending time searching for yet another estate pipe bargain on eBay, or watching a YouTube video clip of a slow-smoking pipe contest on the Isle of Wight. Reading is fundamental to understanding how all these interrelated smokers’ utensils and accouterments came to be, how they were made, who devised them and why they have their particular configuration today.

Do pipes and books go together? Here’s what our own Chuck Stanion posted on “Reading and pipe smoking are traditional comrades, and when the reading pertains to pipes and pipe tobaccos, so much the better.” That was also the retail strategy of Breck and Julie Turner when they opened their Lake Placid, N.Y., landmark retail store, With Pipe and Book, in 1977. Sadly, some in authority claim that there has been a dramatic decline in adult American readership. If you doubt this damning assertion, read the National Endowment of the Arts November 2007 report, To Read or Not to Read. A Question of National Consequence; it is available online. (There is another side to this argument, so you might want to take a few minutes to read an in-depth and predictive view about books in general, Steven Levy’s feature story in the Nov. 26, 2007 issue of Newsweek, “The Future of Reading”; Amazon’s Steve Bezos is on the cover holding a placard that reads “Books Aren’t Dead.”) These points of view notwithstanding, as regards pipe and tobacco books, I’d add that there is also a decline in book buyership. As I see it, the problem is twofold: not enough new and inviting books in the pipeline (no pun intended), and not enough folks sufficiently interested in the literary side of this hobby to buy them! The reasons? For me, they are many and varied, a cause and effect relationship of the book’s appeal to the target audience—quality, including readability, expert advice, new or different information, aesthetics (pictorial content, presentation), price and other factors—and the audience’s positive (or neutral or negative) reaction to the book. Here’s my list, a mixed bag of rambling, random reasons from more than 25 years’ experience writing and selling books:
(a) Today’s pipers are not avid readers. If universally true, this would discourage anyone who’s giving thought to crafting a book in the future.
(b) Books are expensive. Someone who strongly believes this recently posted the following on “While pipe books add some small measure of pleasure to the pipe hobby it can, and does, quickly get to be a huge waste of money that could better be spent on other pipes and pipe related items or tobacco’s [sic].” Generally, books are more costly than tobacco, but they sure are less expensive than any good pipe, and if treated with TLC, books will outlast pipes.
(c) Many are ambivalent about buying just any book on pipes. The reluctant await that yet-to-be-written, tell-it-all reference, and nothing else now in print will satisfy.
(d) Those who know stuff won’t write unless/until they are assured that it’ll sell, even in Peoria. No one can give this kind of guarantee!
(e) Those who know stuff and have the writing gene reject the self-publishing and e-book (on demand) route but can’t afford to go it alone and can’t find a publisher who’ll incur all the associated layout, photography and printing costs.
(f) Others who know stuff say that they lack the writing gene, but this is really a crutch, because writer’s block is a sham. Moreover, they either don’t know or will not use an editor or ghostwriter.
(g) The few who have published once, or perhaps twice, have come to the realization that books don’t sell as well as pipes, and opt not to write again. They know that a highly specialized topic written for a very limited target market is a merchandising disaster.
(h) Some have a great idea for a book, but don’t know where to look for information or how to get started.

However, with the information in this article, the last reason is now indefensible. No doubt, every reader can come up with a handful of other reasons why some in our community choose not to write, and why some others pass up the opportunity to buy every new release that adds another dimension, another facet to a better understanding of this arcane hobby.

I return briefly to cigar smokers to reflect on “them versus us.” They have managed to satisfy their appetite, big time. More accurately, they have been gorging at a book banquet for almost a decade, demonstrating to both authors and publishers that the cigar smoker views his books and magazines as “essential accessories.” Male—and some female—puffers buy and read just about every cigar book in sight. Here’s ironic proof. Pipe maven Rick Hacker has had a bestseller in The Ultimate Cigar Book (two editions), and the German version has been well received. Tad Gage, a knowledgeable pipe aficionado, once editor/publisher of The Compleat Smoker, has yet to write his first book on tobacco pipes, but he has done gangbusters with The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Cigars, now in its second (2007) edition. Go figure. Here are two recognized pipe people who have had bestsellers on cigars, yet there are a couple authors of publications written specifically for the pipe community who have encountered strong buyer resistance. Something’s definitely wrong with this picture!

Are the two groups of smokers so different in their tastes, interests, intellectual curiosity, culture and modus vivendi? Both communities are acquisitive, for sure, but the evidence of what we pursue and why suggests that we are, by comparison, more inquisitive and more cerebral than our cigar-smoking brethren. Pipers willingly lay down really big money for a new pipe or an estate pipe, but they don’t seem to have the same hunger and intensity as cigar smokers for the written word. Europeans publish books on our hobby with clocklike regularity, tobacco shops and bookstores willingly stock them, and the smoking public enthusiastically purchases them. Are American pipe smokers lesser book enthusiasts? I hope that recent post on Smokers’ Forums—“pipe books are ‘a huge waste of money’”—is a minority point of view, but to anyone who does feel this way I offer a counterpoint. To those among us who prefer shelling out money for yet another pipe, but not another book, you can wishfully and wistfully wait and see if the Gutenberg Library releases a DVD with all the venerated tobacco and pipe classics onboard, similar to the recent Gutenberg Project DVD with 9,500 complete e-books for sale at a mere $7.95. Getting all those great tobacco titles on one optical disc storage media format at this price would be a coup and certainly not “a huge waste of money,” but it ain’t gonna happen! There is, however, someone who has digitized some late 19th century books, and he sells his product commercially, if you want to have some original sources in hand for that future writing project. Scott Hooper, Euriskodata, 1022 Mell Ave., Clarkston, GA 30021 (, offers a CD-ROM containing an eclectic assortment of 18 titles, what he calls a “Tobacco Reference Library,” for the nominal price of $9.99 plus $3.50 shipping; unfortunately, what he has digitized is, indeed, a miscellany, not a focused or discretely selected collective of pipe and tobacco classics, and being intimately familiar with all 18, I am not sanguine that most of the 18 would serve a researcher well.
The absence of new works on pipes, pipe smoking and pipe tobacco during the past decade is bewildering to me, so it’s also necessary to say something about would-be writers. Why are the scholarly among us wanting when it comes to sharing what they know through publishing? For some reason, they shy away from putting their pen to serious paper. There may be a strong aversion to publicly sharing what they know, or it could be that they lack that aforementioned confidence to craft, or it’s something else again. I don’t buy the excuse “I don’t have the time,” because devotion to any hobby requires the commitment of lots of time. Write just two pages every week, and at the end of a year, you’ve got a 102-page manuscript! I don’t accept the knee-jerk reaction “I don’t know how to express what I know in writing,” because most pipe smokers are intelligent and articulate. And I find the (Sir Francis Bacon) retort “knowledge is power,” so “what I know I keep close to my vest,” crass and insulting to a community of people who believe in camaraderie, collegial esprit and the brotherhood of the pipe. I don’t have the answer, but maybe it’s really quite simple: those who could make a contribution intuit that, unlike cigar smokers, American pipers do not consider books and magazines “essential accessories.” These folks may have broken the code.

Well, I’ve given you all that you need to kick-start your idea, if you have one. I suggest that those who can … should. Promoting your expertise or special knowledge of our hobby is not an impossible dream. Reach for your pen or pencil and writing pad, turn on your computer, go to your local library, or visit one of the several libraries cited in the table. Search, find, analyze, organize, collate, outline and compose. Just about everything you need to know about writing and publishing—guides, checklists and helpful hints—can be found on the Internet. Buy a copy of Susan Bell’s The Artful Edit. On the Practice of Editing Yourself; it’s a great investment, because she offers ingenious methods, tips and exercises for viewing your work with a fresh eye. In Bell’s view, “Writers live with many fears—of success, of failure, of a 10-year project garnering a one-year paycheck,” but she’s referring to ”bestseller” writers such as the Clancys, Graftons, Koontzes, Pattersons, Rowlings, etc. For us amateur scribes, writing should be a really satisfying experience, and it requires almost no financial or physical resources, but it’s hard work, time-consuming, confusing and often frustrating. It may take months or years, but be not dissuaded. All things considered, and based on my own lengthy experience, recognize that writing a book that appeals to only a very narrow audience is a sporty course, even if you are convinced that your topic is unique and of great interest. Getting it published is a yet sportier course. And the greatest challenge of all? Convincing this very narrow audience to buy your book rather than another pipe!

If you think that the easiest path to authorship will be an e-book, think again. An e-book is a digital object, or a collection of several digital objects or documents, read on a handheld reading device or listened to from a speech-generating tool. Perhaps e-book technology was inevitable, and it may eventually change the world—competing with traditional books—but I believe that e-books cannot beat traditional books as reading technology, at least not yet. Rather than belabor this further, I offer the informed opinion of Terje Hillesund, assistant professor at Stavanger University Center, who is leading a national study on e-books and their impact on the Norwegian book industry: “E-books make society thinkable without printed books. Modern society is unthinkable without printed books.” And just to be the devil’s advocate, Jeff Jarvis, Blog’r extraordinaire, who believes that the traditional book is outmoded, posted his “15 Reasons Why Books Have Problems” on the Internet. Not surprisingly, there was an immediate reaction: an equivalent number of pro-book responses were posted.

Most people who download a book don’t end up buying it, and those who typically download wouldn’t buy it in any event. Moreover, it is a fact that many pipers don’t even invest in the $28/year subscription to Pipes and tobaccos magazine, the only independent organ of this hobby, so it might take a miracle or a really hard sell for this crowd to buy your book, no matter what you write, however well it’s written, however many color images are included, whatever the price.

There are other considerations before you decide to assume the mantle of authorship, and being forewarned is being forearmed. If you must also bear the financial burden to design, print, promote, and merchandise your book, don’t expect to make a sizeable profit … just hope to at least break even. Don’t plan on Oprah including yours on her Book Club list, that it’ll receive a nationally competitive literary award, or that you’ll be going on an all-expenses-paid, cross-country book-signing tour funded by the American tobacco industry. Furthermore, don’t expect, à la the 1989 film Field of Dreams, “If I write it, they will buy,” but think pride of authorship. And although this may sound frivolous, irresponsible and silly, if you publish, your book exists, even if nobody reads it. These obstacles notwithstanding, are you still game?

To conclude, I believe that I speak for the serious pipe people who will always make room on their bookshelf or coffee table for another good read on pipe lore. If you have something new and different to say, if it is informative, elucidating, entertaining and has a reasonable amount of pictorial content, it will sell. Like those catchy slogans on WW I and WW II recruiting posters, “We Need You!” (Albert Steiner), “Will You Have A Part?” (James Montgomery Flagg), “Are You Doing All You Can?” (General Cable Corporation), “Come and Do Your Bit” (unknown U.K. artist), “Sure! We’ll Finish The Job” (Gerritt A. Beneker), and many others, I’ll restate my point: if you already know, or if you intend in the future to impart, some really cool pipe and tobacco stuff in book form, “We Want You!” Write on!


Category: Web Extras, Winter 2008

About Editor: View author profile.

Comments are closed.