- Scholarly Communication: What Everyone Needs to Know by Rick Anderson
New York: Oxford University Press, 2018. Pp. xiv, 280. Cloth: isbn-13 978-0-19-063944-0, us$74.00, uk£47.99; Paper: isbn-13 978-0-19-063945-7, us$16.95, uk£10.99; eBook: isbn-13 978-0-19-063947-1, variable pricing.
One of the first things I noticed about Rick Anderson's Scholarly Communication: What Everyone Needs to Know is that almost all the cited sources come from the Internet. As little as a decade ago, I might not have viewed this book as credible. (And would Oxford University Press even have published such a book?) Today, however, nothing seems amiss with a book substantiated by material appearing in online journals, digital white papers, scholarly blogs, and, yes, even Wikipedia entries (the latter just 6 of 136 citations). Intentionally or not, Anderson's sources illustrate the transformative—or disruptive, depending on your perspective—impact of the World Wide Web on scholarly communication. The power of the Internet provides a recurrent theme in this book, where Anderson notes, for example, that 'the Internet has lowered the barriers of entry into publishing almost to the ground' (134) and that, because of the Internet, 'no one really needs publishers anymore in order to make their intellectual work available to billions of people' (63).
Through fourteen topical chapters, Anderson demonstrates that publishers do continue to provide services valued by scholars. Scholarly publishers vet, edit, brand, and market scholarly work; and they ultimately make scholarly work available. Whether everyone finds these services necessary in the twenty-first century is a different question, as are related questions of costs and access. Indeed, what Anderson does quite well in Scholarly Communication is to highlight the current controversies and debates affecting the entire ecosystem of scholarly communication. He identifies the players in this ecosystem in chapter 2—both the obvious [End Page 215] (scholars, publishers, editors, libraries) and the less obvious: funding agents, government agencies, interest groups and lobbyists, scholarly and other learned societies, institutions employing scholars and scientists. As well, in chapter 1, he defines the scope of what he means by 'scholarly communication,' identifying not only the most apparent manifestations (articles in scholarly and scientific journals, scholarly books and reports, white papers, conference papers and posters, theses and dissertations) but also the forms facilitated by digitalization and the Internet: data sets, multimedia works, preliminary versions of articles, even blog postings. Of all these intellectual fruits, scientists and scholars form the primary consumers.
Anderson, associate dean for collections and scholarly communication at the J. Willard Marriott Library at the University of Utah and former president of the Society for Scholarly Publishing, follows the format of other books in the What Everybody Needs to Know series—a collection of now over 100 'general overview' (12) titles on such current and controversial subjects as artificial intelligence, Brexit, cybersecurity, food politics, hydrofracking, North Korea, and the opioid epidemic—proffering his discussion as a series of interrelated questions and answers. He points out relatively early in the book that scholarly publishing is just one element of scholarly communication; a glance through the table of contents—which, listing all 130 core questions answered in the book, spans eight pages—demonstrates the breadth of the work. Anderson addresses copyright,1 open access, metadata, impact factors and altmetrics, Google Books and HathiTrust, the roles of libraries and university presses, the marketplace of scholarly communication, and other key issues. By my reading, at least, his approach is objective and even-handed. A constant across chapters is the shockingly rapid pace of change, over the past two decades especially: within the ecosystem of scholarly communication, continuous change appears to be the new normal.
A few of the core questions seem worded to needle. For example: 'Does peer review actually work?' (66); 'Does anyone actually read scholarly monographs?' (156); and 'So, do we actually need publishers in this day and age?' (78). (Note the scepticism implied with each provocative actually.) Still, all questions befit what is essentially an extended 'frequently asked questions' on scholarly communication: 'What...