The Truth Seekers

Spike at Hong Kong Book Fair 2015

SHHO alumnus Spike Li was just graduated from Department of Sociology at CUHK. He took part in the summer internship programme organized by the College. Working as an editorial intern at the Chinese University Press, his major duties included: editing and proofreading of manuscripts, commenting on manuscript reviews, and introducing books on the WeChat platform. Spike loves literature and words. Early in his secondary school years, he had already collaborated with his friends to publish campus magazines. The golden opportunity to work in the Chinese University Press did help him to build initial understanding on book editing, publishing process, and more importantly, to know himself.

Although Spike had not experienced the complete publishing process during his internship, he acquired it from communication with the editors. The birth of a book involves negotiating copyright transfer agreements with authors, subediting and proofreading, transferring the draft to the factory for blueprints, and finally the printing procedure. The Chinese University Press organized ‘Editing and Publishing’ workshops for its interns, from which Spike learnt the elements of book publishing that involves the concept design of book binding, cost estimation and book positioning. For instance, editors need to position whether the project is an academic book series or for knowledge popularization, whether it is paperback or hardcover. Editors also need to consider some factors like the book size, paper quality and visual effect of the book cover.

The work in the editorial division has deepened Spike’s understanding on books. ‘I thought books were authoritative reference, though some mistakes might be found. After my practicum at the Press, I profoundly understand that books are written by humans——mistakes are inevitable,’ he remarked. Based on this awareness, he became more cautious of the parts that ordinary readers might not pay attention to, such as copyright page, page header and page number. During the proofreading process, editors strive to make the publication flawless. ‘This process helps me realize the difference between readers and editors. Readers are purely recipients, while editors are participants. The ultimate version of a book is the fruit of the editor’s mindful and circumspect proofreading. Although it is hard to perfect a book, editors still have to try at all means to review the manuscript, so as to reveal the authentic colours of the books and their value.’   

The practicum at the Chinese University Press is Spike’s first work experience, which he found it a blessing. He was a bit anxious at the onset of the practicum. The atmosphere and tasks in the Press, however, were easy-going and interesting. Colleagues were very approachable and helpful, offering the interns much advice. Their dedication in truth seeking in the editing process impressed Spike. ‘A colleague who was responsible for reviewing a family letter added many footnotes over a weekend, complementing some historical events which the author briefly mentioned. One day, I went to the library to return some reference books for her. I discovered there were 10 in total. To help her dig out the source of an expression in an interview, I borrowed some other books.’

Colleagues’ conscientious work attitude left Spike profound reflections on work: the level of commitment on work depends on oneself. Those with high self-expectation are more committed, and vice versa. Spike said, ‘The colleague once asked me to review an autobiography manuscript in French. I know that I’m not particularly familiar with the contemporary Chinese historical figures. In addition to comparison with the full version of translation and learning about the extent of content deleted in simplified Chinese edition in the mainland China, should I delve into this knowledge area so as to draw a quality conclusion about the manuscript review?’ All those reflections tremendously benefited Spike. He found his practicum in the Press a very fruitful job experience.

Spike mentioned, ‘Bearing the accountability for a book is equivalent to being accountable to “accumulation and transmission of knowledge”.’ Editors have been seeking the truth from the manuscripts from dawn to dusk, radiating the passion to the sea of words. They are like the male protagonist Mitsuya Majime in the Japanese movie The Great Passage, a dictionary editor who meticulously dedicated his life time to producing a Japanese dictionary. ‘Work attitude originates from heart. After all, we should be fully accountable to our work ad be our best with depth,’ said Spike.

'Editing and Publishing' workshop held at the Chinese University Press