Explanation of Publication Types
The quality and availability of a book often depends in part on how it was published. Therefore, the book listings identify each book by one of the following publication types:
- Academic -- Academic publishers normally give submitted manuscripts to outside reviewers with some expertise in the subject area of the book. This is not a guarantee that the content is true or interesting, but it does generally result in more careful argument and documentation in the form of footnotes or other citations. The content will typically be thoroughly proofread, and the physical quality of the books is usually good. Availability may be limited and prices high due to small press runs, but there is a good chance that these works can be found through university libraries or large public libraries.
- Commercial -- Commercial publishers are the ones who publish most of the books available in regular bookstores, such as Borders or Barnes & Noble. These range from large, well-known corporate publishers to "small press" independents. In either case, their books have been vetted by professional editors and should be of good quality in regard to things like printing, binding, grammar, etc. However, the editors may not have any special knowledge about the subject matter, and they select books primarily based on whether they expect them to sell, not whether they are well-researched or validly argued. These books are usually the easiest to obtain. Out-of-print books in this category can often be found through used bookstores or libraries.
- Self/Vanity -- This designation indicates that the author paid to publish the book, either by arranging the printing directly or using a publisher that publishes for a fee. Vanity publishers typically do not vet books for content except at the most basic level (such as refusing to publish pornography), and may not provide any type of editorial services, not even copyediting. Therefore, the quality of these books is likely to be substantially lower than those in other categories. It is possible that no one other than the author has edited the book for content or even basic grammar. The physical quality of the printing may also be shoddy. This does not mean that all books in this category are of poor quality, but the odds are higher than for other categories. Availability will depend on the resources and inclinations of the author -- older works in this category are often very hard to obtain. Books in this category are very unlikely to be carried in libraries.
- Specialty -- This category is for operations that only publish books about specific subjects or that rarely publish books at all. This includes books published by ideological organizations. The primary motivation of a these publishers is neither academic nor commercial, but rather that the book furthers the concerns of their organization. The quality and availability of the product is likely to depend on the resources of the organization. Typically these books can be ordered through the publisher's website, but they might not be available through regular retailers. These books are unlikely to be in libraries unless the publisher has made a special effort to place them.
- Unknown -- For works published by obscure or defunct publishers, or which are included in the listings only through information from secondary sources, it may not be possible to determine the specific category. There are also a few publishers that operate on the margins between categories, such as "subsidy" publishers that vet submissions in the fashion of a commercial publisher, but may ask authors to assist with expenses in the fashion of vanity publishers.
In all cases, quality and availability depends on specifics related to that particular book -- readers should not assume that a work will be easy to find and of good quality because it comes from an academic or commercial publisher, or that it will be hard to find and crappy because it does not. However, the category descriptions given above can be helpful for setting expectations.
Finally, it should be noted that publication type cannot always be deduced simply from who did the publishing, because some publishing companies have both academic and commercial divisions. Where appropriate, additional infromation has been checked to determine the type of publication for a specific work. This includes checking specific imprints, acknowledgements given by the author (especially looking for mentions of academic reviewers), and the style and content of the work. Any mistakes made in this process can be brought to the attention of the webmaster through the email link at the bottom of this page.
About the Objectivism Reference Center
The philosophy of Ayn Rand, a twentieth-century novelist and philosopher, is known as Objectivism. The Objectivism Reference Center provides resources about Rand, her ideas, her works, and places where those are discussed and debated. Visit the Site Information page for details on site policies. Suggestions for additional materials or additional links are welcomed.
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