Textbook author Tom Wheeler is now a publisher, too

If you never got around to finding a beach read — or a beach — this summer, might we suggest this title by one of MCC’s own: “Electronic Communications for Professionals.”

Too weighty? Maybe. But if you’re interested in radio signals, high-definition television, GPS systems, data communications and related topics, this could be the book for you.

Actually, it’s a textbook making its debut this fall. Here’s the story of how it came about from author Tom Wheeler, Ed.D., MCC’s director of academic systems.

Wheeler’s original textbook (second edition)

This “Electronic Communications” is a new version of a book Wheeler wrote for big-time textbook publisher Prentice Hall. The original, “Electronic Communications for Technicians,” was published in 2000, with a second edition in 2005.

What was the impetus for the original book? Wheeler says that when he was teaching at DeVry University in Kansas City, an electronics book he used in class contained errors. That resulted in angry students and a frustrated instructor. So Wheeler decided to write his own text.

During a one-semester sabbatical from DeVry, he wrote the bulk of the text working 16-hour days.

The second edition is now 12 years old, but Prentice Hall showed no interest in updating it.

“Last fall, I started getting frantic calls from college professors wondering why (Prentice Hall) had discontinued my text, and wondering where they could get more copies of it,” Wheeler says.

Unfortunately, the publisher was “in the process of thinning their inventory of texts . . . and mine was on the chopping block. Ultimately It was the voice of the professors that drove the development of the new book.”

“Working on creative projects always gives me a feeling of accomplishment,” says MCC’s Tom Wheeler.

The good news was that Prentice Hall agreed to relinquish its rights to the content back to Wheeler. He is self-publishing the new textbook and eventually plans to start a publishing cooperative, which would bring friends who are working on their own books into the fold.

Organizationally, the new book and the second edition of the original are similar; about half the content is similar. “But ultimately,” Wheeler says, “the entire text has been rewritten, topically expanded, and redesigned to appeal to a much broader audience, from technical practitioners in the field to engineers and engineering technologists.”

Wheeler assembled a review team that included instructors using the old textbook, professionals in the field (including a communications chief from the Missouri State Highway Patrol), plus other engineers, writers and content experts.

“I started with the early chapters in January and sent them to the review team as they were drafted,” he says. “While the review team provided corrections and other input, I worked ahead on the next chapters. We just finished (final) Chapter 19 and the back matter (in the last month).

“I was starting to get worried because we’d promised two institutions availability of the book for Fall ’17, and I didn’t want to let them down.”

The new text is an electronic book, but institutions that buy it are granted permission to produce copies of it.

There’s enough material in the new book for four semester-long classes, Wheeler points out, everything from analog communications technology and signal processing concepts to networking, digital telephony and the latest in digital voice communication technology.

The first of Wheeler’s four college degrees, by the way, was an associate in applied science earned at MCC-Longview. Prior to joining MCC, he taught full time for 22 years:  undergraduate computer and electronic engineering technology courses. He was also the faculty lead for a biomedical engineering technology program at DeVry and taught the first classes in that discipline there. He has been active as a software and electronics engineering consultant for more than 35 years.

Now, he can also call himself a textbook publisher.

“Working on creative projects always gives me a feeling of accomplishment,” Wheeler says, “and in the case of this particular project, I know it will do students good to get this book into their hands.”