Peer review and quality control1
Peer review, selective submission standards, editorial support and other attributes of prestigious publication are independent of the openness of the publication. Some open access publishers apply the highest standards of quality control, some non-open access publishers publish low-quality works and vice versa. When publishing your book open access, always check the credentials of the publisher.
Credibility and trust are important to all reputable publishers. Many established publishers and presses who have introduced open access as an option for their authors will not ask you whether you want to make your book open access until the proposal has been accepted by an initial peer review (although you may certainly request it upon submission). Likewise, new open access publishers and presses need to establish credibility and trust for their brand and recognise the importance of building a strong reputation for editorial support, peer review, copy-editing, production, promotion and marketing. Reputable publishers, whatever their business model, have no interest in producing substandard books since their own reputation will suffer and they will become unsustainable if they do so.
Be wary of ‘predatory publishers’ or vanity publishing houses. Many of these publishers print and sell books without any editing or peer review. In addition, there may be hidden charges and you may lose all rights to the work.
The website “Think, Check, Submit” helps authors to determine if a publisher is trustworthy, by providing a checklist for books. Publishers should be clear about the type of peer review they use and the services they offer authors, such as copy-editing.
The Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB) provides a good starting point for researchers who want to check the credentials of an open access publisher; only those who meet its criteria for peer review and licensing are listed. In order for a publisher to be approved for inclusion in DOAB, for example, they must show that their publications are subjected to independent and external peer review prior to publication. DOAB requires the peer review process of each open access publisher to be described upon application. This information is then listed on the DOAB website.
You should also be aware that peer review practices for books tend to vary depending on the type of publication, such as monographs or edited collections, within different disciplinary fields and in different countries or language areas. There is a greater variety of peer review practices for books than for journal articles. The term often used for the variety of editorial practices across disciplines and countries is ‘bibliodiversity’, to underline the value of this diversity and the notion that it deserves to be protected. Although peer review practices for books vary, the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) provides clear guidelines for good practice for peer review.
Finally, there is an ongoing debate about the future of peer review as to how it could be improved. Several publishers are currently experimenting with open peer review. Open peer review can take a number of forms, such as naming reviewers and making reviewers’ comments public for authors and other prospective parties to respond. An excellent starting place for those interested in learning more about new models of peer review is Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s Planned Obsolescence, itself released in draft form for open peer review in 2009 (Fitzpatrick, 2011).
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