On Book Reviews


There has been discussion among some philosophers on social media about the decline in the number of book reviews published by Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews (NDPR).

[detail of “Pile of Books” by Cornelius Volker]

Last year NDPR published 65 book reviews. But in the years 2006-2019 the number of reviews published there annually ranged from 250 to 426.

Of course, NDPR isn’t the only outlet for reviews of philosophy books. Many journals publish book reviews.

Last year, in attempt to provide a central hub for the listing of these book reviews, and greater publicity for them, Daily Nous started including in its Online Philosophy Resources Weekly Updates book reviews published in journals, provided they were open access.

Responsibility is with the journals to let us know when new open access reviews are published, however, and only a small number of journals do so regularly.

If more journals made their book reviews open access, and more journals regularly sent in to us their open access book reviews for inclusion in the Weekly Updates, that might go some of the ways to making up for the slowdown at NDPR. Journal editors, please consider doing both of these things, if possible. Thanks.

 

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Grad student
Grad student
1 month ago

A bit off topic but might you be happy to start listing book reviews from journals that aren’t open access, please, Justin? Maybe separately from the open access list? For those of us fortunate enough to have university-paid access to such reviews, having such regular updates in a central place like this would be very helpful for keeping track of new work.

Chris
Chris
Reply to  Grad student
1 month ago

But aren’t there hundreds of such journals that regularly publish book reviews? I’m not sure how this is feasible. Maybe you can search for them by date on Phil papers?

Re: notre dame philosophical reviews. I’m not sure why they haven’t been reviewing more books lately- is the problem that they can’t find reviewers? It’s only one data point but in my 25 years I’ve never been asked to review a book for them.

Grad student
Grad student
Reply to  Chris
1 month ago

Yes, but I take it that there aren’t hundreds of such journals that most of us care about

Chris
Chris
Reply to  Grad student
1 month ago

Even 50 would be a lot! What’s wrong with searching Phil papers?
I care about a lot more journals book reviews than I do journals at any rate – because journals will sometimes review books I care about even if I don’t care about the journal…

Grad student
Grad student
Reply to  Chris
1 month ago

PhilPapers is indeed a good idea – thanks

Interested Reviewer
Interested Reviewer
1 month ago

From the NDPR website: “Reviews are commissioned and vetted by a distinguished international Editorial Board. We do not accept unsolicited reviews or proposals to review. The journal is published only electronically.”

Is there a way for interested reviewers to let the editorial board know they are interested reviewers?

Brad
1 month ago

Speaking of book reviews …
I am one of the editors for Metascience, a Springer/Nature journal that only publishes book reveiws. We are concerned with books in (i) philosophy of science, (ii) history of science, and (iii) sociology of science, broadly construed. We typically invite reviewers, but we welcome people interested in reviewing recently published books to contact us. Provided there is no conflict of interest (no, you cannot review your supervisor’s book!), and you have some expertise, we would generally welcome a review from someone. We have a large readership, and some very famous scholars have written and continue to write reviews for us. It is a good way to stay up with developments in the literature, and for young scholars it is a nice safe way to learn about the publication process (including writing effetively, correcting proofs, etc.). Give it some thought …
We publish three issues a year with approximately 35 reviews each.

Last edited 1 month ago by Brad
Interested Reviewer
Interested Reviewer
Reply to  Brad
1 month ago

I took a look at the instructors for authors. Would an interested reviewer just email the editors about a book they are interested in? And what information would be helpful for them to reach a decision about inviting?

Brad
Reply to  Interested Reviewer
1 month ago

Interested
You can just e-mail me: [email protected]
If you have not published yet, please send me a short c.v. Further, if there is a specific book you are interested in let, me know. I will need to check with our managing editor, as at ant given time we have about 80 books commissioned. I cannot remember them all. Otherwise, tell me the area you are interested in, for example, philosophy of the social sciences, philosophy of chemistry, realism/anti-realism …

Cecilia Wobblesbury
Cecilia Wobblesbury
Reply to  Brad
1 month ago

Springer is one of the worst offenders in terms of overcharging libraries for subscriptions. They are a horrid company, and no doubt the fact that the editors have to beg for people to review books for them is in part a consequence of that.

J S
J S
1 month ago

The sharp decline in the number of reviews at NDPR coincided with Gary Gutting handing off editorship to Christopher Shields, who is still listed as editor despite having left Notre Dame for UC San Diego. The decision by many publishers to stop sending hard copies for review during, and then after, the Covid pandemic also can’t have helped. But the decline of NDPR is striking, and a real shame for the profession, as the journal was doing a great service. We should all hope that the department can find a way to get it back to something like what it was.

Michael Kremer
Michael Kremer
Reply to  J S
1 month ago

Gary Gutting didn’t hand the editorship off to Christopher Shields. Gary died in 2019. Gary’s wife Stacie, who co-founded NDPR with Gary and was co-editor with him, continued as editor. Then she stepped down and J C Beall took over in 2020, followed by Christopher Shields in 2021. When Chris left for UCSD in 2023 he agreed to continue as editor at NDPR.

J S
J S
Reply to  Michael Kremer
1 month ago

Thank you for the clarification, and I’m sorry for having messed up the details!

Berel Dov Lerner
Berel Dov Lerner
1 month ago

They hardly ever review books not published by Oxford.

Gorm
Reply to  Berel Dov Lerner
1 month ago

I have noticed this as well

Start the presses
Start the presses
Reply to  Berel Dov Lerner
29 days ago

This is likely partly (largely?) because most other (i.e., non-OUP) academic presses stopped automatically sending their new books to journals/review editors during covid, and perhaps haven’t gone back to automatically sending. Lots of them now prefer review editors to request individual titles, and/or send only e-books (usually not pdfs, but other sorts of pain in the rear formats). That’d likely make it much harder to review other presses’ books. And since, as others have noted here, NDPR wasn’t well funded, but was run by an emeritus professor, it’s not as if there’s someone paid to go scouring the presses’ catalogs.

Mark van Roojen
Mark van Roojen
Reply to  Start the presses
25 days ago

I’m a bit out of date since I haven’t been a BR editor since 2018 or thereabouts but OUP was much better about sending out gratis review copies than other presses and that is going to matter when the labor of editing (which involves keeping on top of books possibly worth reviewing) and writing reviews is volunteer labor. They weren’t perfect at sending out all they should have, but I think more than half of what we learned of through review copies came from OUP. FWIW, several presses gave electronic access to books with time limits that were just unrealistic given how long it takes to find reviewers and to review a book. A book review author really deserves a permanent copy of the book they will be reviewing.

Daniel Novotný
Daniel Novotný
1 month ago

Thanks for this post. We’ve made open access this review article and plan to do more. (Our journal focuses on Aristotelian and Scholastic traditions)

https://www.pdcnet.org/pdc/bvdb.nsf/purchase_mobile?openform&fp=studneoar&id=studneoar_2023_0020_0002_0195_0226

Fritz Warfield
1 month ago

I was associate editor of NDPR for an extended period beginning with its founding. I stayed on the editorial board for some time after giving up that position. I am no longer affiliated with the journal.

The drastic decline of NDPR was dominantly caused by decisions of Notre Dame administrators, primarily at the College and Provost level, to not even minimally support the journal.

Under Gary’s leadership [and because of his relentless dedication and energy] and through the work of the original editorial board and early contributors, NDPR went from being non-existent to being a top tier resource in the profession.

Notre Dame administrators wanted the prestige of the venue without providing relevant support to maintain this. I (and others) told them what would happen to NDPR after those decisions. Unfortunately, I was right.

Trevor Anderson, NDPR Managing Editor
12 days ago

Related to this discussion, I’d like to inform readers of Daily Nous that NDPR is now accepting proposals for book reviews from qualified reviewers: https://ndpr.nd.edu/about/

Brad Wray

Trevor
Is it possible to reply to one of the messages I sent to NDPR? I was inquiring whether it was worth having a review copy of my recent book sent to the journal. My last two books were not reviewed (as of yet). Can you at least reply to my message. There is no sense in me asking CUP to send a book to the journal if it will not be reviewed in it.
Thanks