Reviewing Open-Access Books


The increase in electronic publishing and open access books raises a number of questions, some of which concern the practices of reviewing books. Along those lines, David Velleman writes in with the following inquiry:

  • How should open-access books be submitted to journals for review? These books are published in hard copy as print-on-demand paperbacks, but they are also accessible online at no charge for reading, and little or no charge for downloadable digital copies. (For examples, see www.openbookpublishers.com and www.maizebooks.org.)
  • To journal editors: Would you accept review copies of open-access books in digital (pdf) format, or do you require printed copies for review? If you require printed copies, would you take the trouble to request one if the publisher initially sent only a pdf? 
  • To book reviewers: Would you agree to review a book for a journal that provided only a pdf? 
  • To editors and reviewers: If you accepted digital review copies of open-access books, would you do the same for books that aren’t open access?
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Douglas W. Portmore
6 years ago

I would agree to review a book for a journal that provided only a PDF. I prefer a PDF. I would review a book for a journal that provided only a PDF even if it wasn’t open access.Report

Beau Madison Mount
Beau Madison Mount
6 years ago

There’s a lot to be said, I think, for a policy of encouraging reviewing based on PDFs *on two conditions* — that hard copies are distributed to a reasonable number of geographically separated libraries and that the PDF is page-identical to the hard copy, so that the reviewer and readers can be sure that it represents as faithfully as possible the (ultimately authoritative) paper copies.

PDFs, for all their utility, are not an archival medium, and one of the things book publishers are good for is preparing and distributing work in such a way that there’s a good chance it will still be accessible, somewhere or other, in 200 or 300 years. This is a duty that we all have to future generations, and we shouldn’t encourage people to overlook it in the name of convenience.Report

Anon Prof
Anon Prof
6 years ago

I wouldn’t want to read a whole book in PDF, so I’d want a hard copy of a book if I were writing a review.Report

Joseph Schear
Joseph Schear
6 years ago

I edit the European Journal of Philosophy. If the reviewer wanted a hard copy, I would require it, and yes, I would take the trouble to request it. I am not sure what to think about accepting digital review copies more broadly. We’ve just handed over editing reviews to Andrew Huddleston (Birkbeck), so he would be better placed to answer on our behalf. For my part, having served as reviews editor in the past, I think I would be far less likely to “thumb through” a PDF than a physical book when considering whether to have it reviewed (and by whom).Report

ejrd
ejrd
6 years ago

pdfs have a virtue that hard-copies do not: they are searchable! This makes it much easier to find (and quote) relevant portions of text both for research and for things like writing reviews. I’m not sure why pdfs are not archival either. Unless the entire Internet goes down, then pdfs are likely to outlast paper media (without degradation…though maybe digital worms will corrupt our files the way silverfish and bookworms corrupt or actual books).Report

ejrd
ejrd
6 years ago

…and, of course, this isn’t to imply that hard copies are not able to be searched. The old-fashioned way, however, is pretty time consuming.Report