Brian Leiter is sharing the results of a survey on his blog to see which academic publishers are considered “best” in his field of philosophy. I find surveys like this useful — at least when carried out somewhat scientifically and systematically (which Leiter’s isn’t and doesn’t claim to be) — and I think these particular results are not too different from what an equivalent survey in other humanities fields might find.

They are skewed, however, by the fact that bigger publishers are better known and more widely used than smaller publishers, so they are likely to get more votes. As one commenter puts it,

My worry with these results is that it validates big presses as, necessarily, against good ones. Wiley-Blackwell barely even publishes academic monographs; their reputation is largely based on textbooks, handbooks, etc. And to say that’s better than UChicago–historically, one of the top philosophy presses–strikes me as, well, ridiculous. Oxford has the biggest philosophy catalogue in the world, but I think its polling is distorted by its size. To put it another way, the “average quality” of some of the smaller presses–including Harvard, Princeton, and Chicago–is, I’d submit, almost certainly higher than that of Oxford (and certainly of Cambridge), but the larger presses have greater visibility.

Many academic publishers didn’t even appear on the list.

Meanwhile, Inside Higher Ed and Brian Leiter are both reporting about Edwin Mellen Press’s campaign to stifle criticism of itself. (Mellen ranked lowest on Leiter’s list.) Apparently, a librarian at McMaster University has taken down his blog post that expressed criticism of the press because Mellen filed multi-million dollar lawsuits against both him and his university.

If that doesn’t kill their already lousy reputation — and we should spread the news to ensure that it does — then I’m not sure what can.


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