Saturday, February 9, 2013

Watch out for Edwin Mellen press

Dale Askey, a librarian at McMaster University, is being sued for libel by Edwin Mellen Press for posting negative comments about the press's books in a blog post. As a university librarian, his job is to evaluate books and publishers and advise his university. This is scary stuff: a commercial publisher is trying to shut down academic freedom. Perhaps scarier still is the fact that Askey's university has yet to come to his defense. If suing bloggers for negative remarks were to become common, many of us would be in big trouble.

You can read about this case in Sam Trosow's blog, which has links to the lawsuit (that document includes the blog post in question), and a piece by Colleen Flaherty in Inside Higher Education.

You can sign a petition in support of Dale Askey at I've signed.

Mellen does publish a few archaeology books, titles that I had not heard of. My bibliography database includes some of their books in the field of urban history. I've looked at several of these, but I don't think I've ever cited one.


Anonymous said...

I find this whole debate to be nuts. Every book is a unique product. Some are good and some are poor. The actual publisher is no indication of quality. Every book needs to be judged on its individual merits. I know of some excellent books published by EMP which have had excellent reviews in leading scholarly journals.

Unknown said...

First of all, this comment (word for word) has been left on a number of other sites and is obviously a poorly veiled attempt by Mellon P to validate itself. Secondly, I am a librarian and have an advanced degree in Information Science (among other things) and thus I *AM* qualified to make judgments about academic books: it is part of the education that every librarian (esp. at an academic library) must go through. I have entire books on how to assess the quality of academic literature, if you’re interested, and yes, the publisher can be one (of many) factors to be considered.

Michael E. Smith said...

Wow, thanks for pointing this out. I thought this was an odd comment. I started to reply to it, but my reply was cancelled by a connection problem, and I didn't bother to try to repost it. Thank you for pointing out the highly suspect nature of this strange comment. I agree completely with your remarks about the judgment of librarians.