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Introduction to library research in the arts: Academic books and the publishing process

An introduction to research concepts and techniques for University of Redlands students in fine, literary and performing arts, developed as an Open Educational Resource (OER)

Learning objective

  • Identify editorial processes that improve the quality of research published in scholarly books.

Academic book publishing

Academic books are typically created through collaboration between authors and publishers. Some publishers are not-for-profit scholarly societies, created by and for scholars in a given discipline. Other publishers have developed into large scale, for-profit corporations.

Publishers employ a variety of professionals to undertake the work of editing, proofreading, indexing, printing and marketing books. Let's examine what is required to publish an academic book by watching these videos created by Edward Elgar, a UK-based academic publisher.

Screen shot from "Academic Publishing Process part 1" by Edward Elgar

Screen shot from "The Academic Publishing Process part 2" by Edward Elgar

University presses

Many scholarly books have a very limited readership, consisting of scholars, teachers and students studying a particular topic. This makes them unsuitable for mass market publishers. University presses arose to fill this niche of publishing book length academic research.

Dr. Leonard Allen of Abilene Christian University Press spoke in 2012 about the mission of university presses.

Mass market publishing

Mass market books are created through intensely collaborative processes involving people with professional expertise in editing, design, sales and marketing.

Publishing is primarily funded through sales to consumers, so the likely demand for a book is a key factor determining whether the book's proposal will be accepted, and influencing the development of the book from initial proposal to finished copy.

Let's learn about how books are produced by watching this video from Penguin Random House, a major UK-based publisher.

The role of the editor

Let's examine the role of one crucial player in the publication process - the desk editor - through this short video created by Penguin Random House.

Open access books

Open access books are freely available to read online.

Instead of funding the production of the book by selling physical copies, other types of financial support are required. For example, the publisher may ask authors to pay a publication fee. Authors may in turn ask their institution to cover the fee or apply for a research grant from a government or other funding agency.

This short excerpt from a video by a major publisher, Springer Nature, describes their open access publishing initiative involving book processing charges (BPCs).

Check your understanding

Key point

  • Academic publishers ensure the quality of their books through a multi-step process involving collaboration among authors, editors and other professionals, including peer review.