"The academic monograph is dead! The days of small university presses are numbered!" This is a common refrain among analysts of academic publishing in the digital age -- sometimes proclaimed with glee (especially by those technology enthusiasts who would like to see websites and digital databases take the place of the academic monograph), but more often in the form of a lament over the decline of publishing. And yet, monographs still play an important role -- not only for individual career paths (especially in disciplines where "having a monograph" is seen as essential for promotion to more senior positions), but also as major contributions to scholarship.
I count myself among those who think that monographs are of singular importance to philosophy and cannot easily be replaced by journal articles. Not every important philosophical idea needs to be turned into a monograph, obviously, and though I don't mind it if monographs include published material, I do feel cheated when a "monograph" I've bought turns out to consist solely of superficially rewritten journal articles (just call it a collection of published essays, then!). Which brings me to another confession: I regularly buy (and read) monographs, sometimes (gasp!) even the pricey hardcover editions.
However, on more than one occasion, I've been disappointed by the books I've bought -- including some of those I've been most looking forward to, written by colleagues whom I respect and even admire. I don't mean the philosophical content of the books in question -- which, on occasion, has been groundbreaking -- but by the simple fact that these books were riddled with typos, missing footnotes, incomplete references etc. -- Whether it is because of rushed deadlines (which I've discussed here) or because of misplaced trust that the publisher would take care of it, I don't know -- what I do know is that no one could possibly have proofread the galleys without spotting at least the more glaring typos.
Which is why I am imploring authors -- established scholars and those planning their first book -- to make sure to proofread their manuscripts/galleys before they get sent to the printers. Don't rely solely on the publisher to do this -- many of them have outsourced typesetting (which sometimes introduces typos, as I'll discuss in a future post).
For my recent book A Critical Introduction to Testimony (which, if I'm permitted to plug the book a little, is the first comprehensive survey of the epistemology of testimony since Coady's 1992 book; for a longish essay review click here), I was lucky enough to have research funds that allowed me to hire two fantastic student assistants who helped with the proofreading and indexing. Even so, I went through three rounds of proofreading myself -- and asked the publisher to prepare an additional set of proofs, just to make sure all the corrections had made it into the final product.
Even in the final round of proofreading, I still found a sentence that said "testimony" where it should have said "evidence" (thereby rendering the sentence tautological), and, in spite of my best efforts, I imagine there are still some typos hidden somewhere in the 264 pages... (If you, or one of your students -- yes, the book is eminently suitable as a class text, thanks to study questions etc. ... ok, enough already -- spot any typos, do let me know as the publisher informs me the book is selling reasonably well, so there may be a second edition.)
In a recent post, Marcus discusses the process of writing a book proposal and pitching it to different publishers. As he notes, writing a book is a massive commitment of time and resources, and few authors would be comfortable with publishing a book that no one reads. However, in this day and age, buying and reading an academic monograph also constitutes a non-negligible commitment of time and resources on the part of the reader (just look at the average price of a Routledge or OUP hardcover!), and no author should be comfortable with publishing a book that is riddled with typos, missing references, a useless index, or which unnecessarily tests the reader's patience in other ways.
So, when you write a book -- whether it's your first, or your twentieth -- do make sure to proofread it properly.