I've been having another look at the Morcombe Field Guide, and I actually
did a field-trial on a beginning birder....
When we talk about field-guides I think we often forget that there are
various different potential users of field-guides.
First of all there are people like the average birding-aus subscriber:
people who probably own two or three field-guides already, plus other
ornithological works, and would probably welcome another field guide and
learn from it.
Then there are the experienced bird-watchers from overseas who come to
Australia. For this group probably the most important thing is that the
field guide they use is similar in its look and conventions to the one(s)
they use at home.
Finally there are the beginning bird-watchers; here I think the layout and
format is very important. And here I have to disagree with Michael Mules, I
think having information on the page is a very BAD idea. Books have been
produced for about 1500 years, and despite changes in technology such as
printing, their appearance has not changed much. The basic rule is 'the
more white space the better', because the more space there is the easier it
is for the eye to zero in on important features. Now with Morcombe's guide,
some pages are just gruesome: Crows and Ravens for example.....where do you
start? Whereas Pizzey and Knight has an orderly arrangement (from memory)
three ravens on one page, three crows on the next. The arrangement tells
the brain 'OK, steady on, order out of chaos...three ravens, scan left hand
page for species, cast eye across for illustration of each species...' and
While I was looking at Morcombe in Angus & Roberston a woman came up to the
shelves with an assistant and they started looking at bird books, Pizzey &
Knight was dismissed as too big, and Simpson & Day and Slater were
considered. I butted into the conversation and showed her the Morcombe
guide, but she recoiled from it in horror, saying it was too cluttered.
What she wanted was a guide which had the birds arranged in groups like
'small brown birds', 'small yellow birds' and so on, not phylogenetically.
I suggested perhaps one with 'Common Canberra Urban Birds', 'Common Sydney
Urban Birds', 'Common Bush Birds of the Sydney Area' &c and she agreed that
would be good too.
So, come on Steven Parish Publishing, what about a specific beginners'
guide laid out like that?
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