What’s the best guide to journal publishing?

In 1997 Cambridge University Press (CUP) published a revised edition of Journal Publishing, by Gillian Page, Robert Campbell, and Jack Meadows. I was an admirer of that book: it was broad in scope, rich in content, professional in treatment and direct in style. But it has long been out of date, a victim of the pace of change in journal publishing.

Now CUP have published a new book designed to fill much the same niche in the market.

The Handbook of Journal Publishing by Sally Morris, Ed Barnas, Douglas LaFrenier, and Margaret Reich, shares not only the positioning of the previous book, but also its virtues: it too is broad, rich, and professional – and, praise be, it has the same directness in style: the high quotient of subject-verb-object sentences produces a welcome briskness.

A feature of the book is plentiful boxed material, typically containing factual material and checklists. The boxes are indicative of the authors’ willingness to ensure that the book remains practical and grounded. There’s also an extensive glossary: it is expertly written and provides a genuine reference resource.

Today, no book on this subject can avoid beginning to go out of date even before copies roll off the press, but in fact I’m struck by how up to date this book feels – thanks in part to a chapter about the future of journal publishing (though no doubt that will be the first to feel dated).

Some commentators will regard the treatment of the industry’s live issues (concerning technology, workflow, business models, and ethics) as over-conservative. Indeed, the chapter on change contains two passages each with the heading ‘…and what hasn’t changed’. And there’s no entry for ‘disruption’ in the index (not, for that matter, for ‘cloud’ or ‘multimedia’). But there is no consensus on such matters – no one book can hope to gain approval from all corners.

I have no hesitation in recommending Handbook of Journal Publishing as the best single resource I know on the subject. I learnt much from reading it – particularly the chapters on fulfilment, sales, and finance. 

I’ve added the book to the select list on Monographer’s bookshelf and it will be recommended reading on my courses on scholarly publishing – especially the concise and informative chapter on journal metrics.

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