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Copyright © 2003, MCB UP Limited
The readers' review: book reviews revisioned
When I get a little money, I buy books. And if there is any left, I buy food and clothes (Erasmus).
Should books have permanence beyond the publication of breaking research in scholarly journals or preprints of articles? And, should books have a longer half-life than a publication on the Internet? The medium is the message where time to print is one of the measures, realizing, of course, that the Internet is ubiquitous, and possibly "forever".
University libraries are having to face this issue as more resources get shifted from books and monographs to scholarly journals, and as these journals move to electronic formats, accessible, at increasing cost. Publishers of scholarly books are confronted with the problem as libraries that used to take one of "everything" in a field, now must be selective, reducing the number of volumes of an edition sold. This is off-set to a certain extent by the ability to almost publish "on demand" and to make volumes available in electronic versions. On the other hand, the life-cycle cost for a square foot of storage brings reality to the published volume.
What should be the role and value of differing means of distributing knowledge in today's emerging electronic world? As journals move to open access on university computers and as "preprints", Web logs (Blogs), make ideas available almost instantly, are scholarly journals becoming vestigial in The Academy, like ceremonial robes and rituals of passage for promotion and tenure? Do the humanities and social sciences, which often prefer books to journal articles, have to rethink how scholarly ideas should be put forth?
In thinking about the role of the book, we are also rethinking our ideas of other media for the communication and distribution of scholarly thought. We also must rethink the function of the library, once the heart of the academic campus, and now ubiquitous and accessible anytime and anywhere in an increasingly wirelessly connected society. What is an academic office without the ubiquitous wall of books? What is a campus when knowledge comes to you with the touch of a key or stroke of a stylus whether at home, in transit or the student center?
Books are time binding. They earn their permanence like a wine, maturing with age. They are to be savored and revisited and not cited as if they were a means of validating a thoroughbred's bloodline. This column seeks to find those volumes, proven in the forge of time, and particularly those newly pressed that may prove to have the same qualities that improve with age.
On the Horizon is seeking book reviews of volumes of substance. These can be warm from the presses or ones that others who read this journal should revisit in these times. On the Horizon seeks in-depth, reflective, reviews of new books, as well as critical, contemporary revisiting of volumes. These can be scholarly monographs, trade volumes, or fiction which speaks to the concerns of On the Horizon readers.
If there is a book which readers wish to review for On the Horizon, please contact the editor. If it is yet to be or recently released, On the Horizon will obtain a copy from the publisher. If it is a volume to be revisited, the reviewer should have access to a copy. Reviews may be as short as 500 words and as long as 5,000. One should consider that volumes of substance deserve a review of the same caliber. If the new releases fail to meet the metric, one still may find that there is value to be obtained. Please feel free to contact the editor with questions, suggestions and ideas.
On the Horizon has numerous volumes out for review currently. Those that are currently sitting in-house include:
Smith, Christian, The Secular Revolution - University of California Press.
Alternatives to Globalization, A Report to The International Forum on Globalization - Berrett Koehler.
Massey, William, Honoring the Trust - Anker.
Wilms, Wellford, Awakening the Academy - Anker.
Jenkins, Rhys et al., Corporate Responsibility and Labour Rights - Earthscan.
Keane, John, Global Civil Society - Cambridge University Press.
DiLio, Jeffrey, Affiliations - University of Nebraska Press.
Fensel, Dieter et al., Spinning the Semantic Web - MIT Press.