I’ve been sent a free copy of a book to review on this blog. This is the first time I’ve had such a request, so I thought I ought in the interests of transparency to clarify what it means, and what my role is. In the course of my career, I’ve reviewed more than forty books for academic journals. Book reviews don’t generally get much credit as academic publications. While there’s a certain amount of academic thinking that goes into a review, a reference should always be about the book being reviewed, not the reviewer – I hate reviews which don’t tell me what’s in the book. It’s not about putting forward my own ideas, and that’s why I’ve not reproduced any of the reviews I’ve done on my open access page.
A reviewer for an academic journal is never paid, but gets to keep the book. The arrangement relating to this blog is much the same at root as it would be with an academic journal. I don’t then have any ethical reservations about accepting this book to review; it puts the blog on the same footing as an academic journal. The main difference will be a matter of length: academic journals usually ask for 600 words, and on this blog I hardly ever go beyond 300.
Some of my colleagues may be surprised that any publisher would want to take the risk of having a book reviewed by me, but that’s a different issue.