Creating a Modern Classic
‘eText’ Aspires to a New Standard
AAPG is about to publish a historic and significant book – historic because of its concept and significant because of its content. But first another subject is being discussed.
Author Stephen L. Bend, associate professor of geology at the University of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, is passionately talking about the miniatures he is making for an upcoming special on the History Channel called “Reinventors II” rather than his and AAPG’s new Petroleum Geology eTextbook, scheduled for release this month.
“I am making Da Vinci’s tank, vintage machine guns and ancient weaponry, and actually have a one-quarter-scale trebuchet in my back garden that hurls two-pound objects over 100 feet – it’s great for my kids ‘show and tell!’”
And then he adds – not that he needs to – “I have a very tolerant wife.”
Having just labored over an exciting new development in the field of petroleum geology education – an eTextbook on CD-ROM with interactive video and audio – you can forgive Bend for tinkering in the backyard, lobbing whatever projectiles he has toward the house and testing his wife’s patience.
His commitment to creating something new and fresh easily informs and inspires the various facets of his creativity.
Those who have seen it say the Petroleum Geology eTextbook, AAPG’s first-ever e-textbook, is a worthy compendium to A.I. Levorsen’s famed Geology of Petroleum, long considered the mother of all petroleum geology textbooks.
It also is believed to be the first new single book to specifically offer an all-encompassing view of petroleum geology since Levorsen’s tome.
(AAPG’s Treatise of Petroleum Geology offered a more comprehensive look at the subject, but that came in three series, including a reprint series comprising 20 separate volumes.)
A New Gold Standard?
Before talking of either his or Levorsen’s book, though, Bend wants to set the record straight on one thing.
“Let’s dispense with the ‘professor’ thing,” says a man who not only has a doctorate from the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in England, but also is a competitive cross-country skier and mountain biker.
For starters, then, Stephen is flattered by the comparison.
Calling Levorsen’s book the industry’s “gold standard,” he says, “I have a copy of Geology of Petroleum myself and often admire the volume of work and knowledge that is encapsulated in his book.
“As complete as that text was,” he continues, “technology, geological knowledge, geological practices and the means of executing the business of oil and gas exploration are always evolving.”
And that evolution needed a newer information delivery system, one that would honor the fundamentals of the profession but be able to adapt when necessary.
With the Petroleum Geology eTextbook, Bend not only augments the great wealth of knowledge found in Levorsen’s and other published geologic work, but also augments the way in which that information is transmitted and actually defined.
“Take, for example, our current and increased understanding of source rocks, petroleum generation, oil migration, seals and sealing surfaces, geophysical exploration, the constant evolution in petrophysical logging and the evolution in drilling practices,” he said, “all of which have changed over the last 50 years.”
Another discussion of that change can be found in the first line of the eText, where Bend wonders if the term “petroleum geologist” is even accurate anymore.
“Petroleum geology, as a sub-discipline of geology, has become both increasingly broad in scope and highly dependent upon a myriad of specialties, ” he said. “A ‘petroleum geologist’ may be principally a stratigrapher, a structural geologist, a sedimentologist, a geochemist, or ‘well site geologist,’ etc., all of whom apply their respective skills and knowledge in the exploration and production of oil and gas!
“However, everything has to be successfully integrated as ideas and interpretations of the subsurface evolve,” he added. “So you could say that the petroleum geologist is not only a wearer of many ‘hats,’ but the ‘hats’ may also change throughout ones’ career.”
All of this, he says, is as much about science as it is art, comparing geology with abstract art – a field in which he is both a collector and creator.
“Like abstract art, interpretations of the subsurface exist in the mind,” he said. “Even throughout the exploration and production history of an oil or gas field, the geologist cannot see or touch the reservoir buried within the subsurface.
“Another connection is creativity. A petroleum play and piece of art are both the fruits of a creative mind, enabled with the appropriate skills and tools to get the job done! ”
The Times They Are A-Changing
Bend, an AAPG member since 1983, has worked as a field geologist for more than 20 years and operated the geochemistry laboratory in Halifax, Nova Scotia, for Exlog Canada. Through those years he developed an expansive interest in organic geochemistry and petrology.
For the past 17 years as a professor – there’s that word again – he knows something about how to transmit that information.
“Student’s expectations and the way in which they learn and study have also changed,” he said. “We live in an increasingly visual world, so in response, textbooks have also evolved. Contemporary textbooks, for example, in geology are becomingly progressively visual.
“Geology is a very visual discipline and we have become increasingly adept in visualizing geological phenomenon.”
As such, the Petroleum Geology eTextbook is media rich, of which Bend said, “I am especially pleased that we were able to include an interactive library of previously published material (i.e., scientific papers, book chapters) that users of this will no doubt find useful. The eTextbook also includes material that will be of use to the professional geologist, such as the inclusion of logging charts.
“It is my hope and intention that this eTextbook will be useful not only to the student of petroleum geologist but anyone working in petroleum geology.”
Gretchen Gillis, AAPG Elected Editor who oversees all technical and scientific publishing for the Association, is one such person.
Gillis, whose master’s degree is in geological sciences from the University of Texas at Austin, says an eText could have nonetheless helped her in her training.
“I think I would have benefited tremendously from having Dr. Bend’s eText when I began working as an exploration geologist,” she said. “The training material I worked with as a newly hired exploration geologist was not nearly as good as the eText.
“I hope the eText will encourage people who would naturally be drawn to geology to continue in the subject,” she added. “The eText describes many facets of petroleum geology using engaging text and fabulous full-color graphics and videos, includes links to many classic papers, and the search function makes finding particular information a breeze.”
Gillis says when Hannes Leetaru, who’s on AAPG’s Publication Committee, saw Bend’s early work, it was natural that the organization would get involved.
“Leetaru was so impressed that he brought a copy to the AAPG Publications Committee meeting and showed it to us, ” she recalled. “While the Publications Committee offered a few suggestions, Dr. Bend deserves all the credit for the high quality of the end product. ”
Coming Soon: More
Gillis adds that this is not the only project of this sort coming down the pike.
Leetaru and AAPG are about to publish an electronic collection of teaching sets for petroleum geology, “which I think will be an excellent companion to the eText.”
A companion, Bend believes, that can be used worldwide.
“While I was writing, editing and re-editing, it was always my intention to include examples and references from around the world,” he said. “I wanted to make this textbook acceptable beyond the USA and Canada.”
Bend, who has been published in the Journal of Fuel, Organic Geochemistry, the Canadian Journal of Earth Science and others, understands the practical implications of such a book as well – namely, money.
“Yes, cost is one benefit,” he said. “I have several ‘textbooks’ on my shelf right now that are too expensive for students enrolled in semester-based courses.
“AAPG has always published affordable texts, often aimed at the professional and scientist,” he added. “It is gratifying that (AAPG) will now be able to offer a truly (affordable) introductory text!”
Gillis, too, thinks electronic publishing is a wave on which geologic texts should ride.
“Electronic publications offer the advantages of being able to hold thousands of pages, color graphics and videos at relatively low cost.”
As an example, she says that AAPG will be able to easily update and expand the eText.
Bend not only wrote the text but also developed the overall vision, which meant selecting photographs, creating dozens of figures, producing the QuickTime VR (virtual reality) movies, selecting and editing previously published work, as well as soliciting contributions from others in the industry and dealing with dozens of permission request issues.
Bend says the whole project “was an insane amount of work!” adding that the process was like “ … giving birth … without the epidural.”
“All joking aside,” he said, “I can see many other publishing possibilities using a similar publishing format and I have several ideas I’d like to try.”
Which will no doubt try Mrs. Bend’s patience.