Ruth Franklin on book reviewing

Ruth Franklin has put a version of a recent prize acceptance speech about book reviewing online. The piece tackles the dwindling force and volume of book reviews. The piece raises some interesting questions that face those who review for a living and those, like academics, who might review as a part of their writing output. Academics need to consider the same types of questions about reviewing. I’ve been thinking a lot about reviewing since taking on the reviews section at Information, Communication & Society. I’ve been commissions reviews and so far people seem keen. The difficulty is that reviewing is important for the development of ideas and for fostering vibrancy in academic discourse. The difficulty is that it is not valued by our systems of measurement. So the pressure to do other things can mean that reviewing, understandably, gets shifted down the list of priorities. I’m hoping that I can persuade people to do a review when they get chance. The limiting of book reviewing is likely to be one of those hidden consequences of the metrics and measurement of research activities. The result is of course that people favour activities that are made visible in the metrics. It’s hard to resist such pressures. Maybe the way to do it will be to see reviewing books as an act of resistance, book reviews might come to represent one of those moment when the value of ideas and collaborative dialogue are at the forefront of what we do.

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