Work Title: Scholarly Books Broaden Reader Choices
Work Author(s): Joseph Tragert
Byline: Joseph Tragert
Scholarly publishers have identified "terrorism" as a lucrative marketing subject area. The number and variety of books and monographs dealing with subjects related to terrorism, homeland security, regional, and ethnic and religious conflicts have grown significantly in the past five years. These works can be roughly divided into two types: reference works that are generally produced by commercial publishers (for example, Taylor & Francis or Brill), and specialized topical monographs, which are typically published by university presses (like Oxford University Press or Columbia University Press). These scholarly books are available in print, electronically, and aggregated into online databases.
Librarians, bibliographers, and collection developers can augment their terrorism-related holdings with scholarly books, rather than limit their acquisitions to popular nonfiction works and biographies. In this time of heated passions and arguments about foreign conflicts and interventions, scholarly books lend an element of authority and clarity that researchers and lay readers need when formulating their own understanding. Librarians can further enhance their collections by utilizing scholarly books on terrorism-related topics that are included within aggregated reference databases.
How the scholarly book business works
At the risk of generalizing about a complex industry, scholarly publishers can be grouped into two subsets: commercial publishers and university presses. Commercial publishers are run as businesses, and publish books that their editorial boards feel will sell well in the marketplace. As a result of aiming for broad appeal, commercial publishers tend to produce reference works that may take years to develop, instead of topical monographs that may quickly become out-of-date. Commercial publishers often (but not always) choose to refrain from creating controversial or one-sided works, choosing instead to aim for a centrist tone to avoid charges of bias. This keeps their works acceptable (and viable purchasing options) for all sides of an issue.
University presses, in contrast, while they may have an eye to their bottom line, often exist primarily as a vehicle to advance the state of academic knowledge about a subject, as well as for their faculty to be published. In the latter mode, their mission is to support the faculty's...