Why should we write books? Why should we even bother reading them? And why on earth should anyone ‘waste’ their time reviewing books? These questions converge on a much larger question; what value do we, as social scientists, as well as those institutions within and outside academia that ‘evaluate’ our work, attach to books (see also Suddaby and Trank, 2013)? From an instrumental perspective, books seem to matter comparatively little in many countries and disciplines across the globe, because academic career progression is close to inconceivable in the absence of journal publications in so-called A* or 4* journals. As Gabriel notes, publishing academic articles “is now a game in which high performance forges careers and sustains departmental reputations hyped up on the back of publication and citation “hits”” (Gabriel, 2017b). Socialization of academics, especially PhD students and early career researchers, follows (often) perverse incentives (Edwards and Roy, 2016) that influence publication strategies and choices in favor of articles rather than books.
However, as book review editors and as authors ourselves, our view is that books occupy a significant intellectual space in the social sciences. Indeed, this has been recognized by EGOS when they introduced the EGOS Book Awards in 2017 “to celebrate the linguistic diversity of scholarship in the field of organization studies performed with the depth and richness of detail afforded by a monograph” as stated on the EGOS website. As a medium to pursue knowledge and truth, books intrinsically matter because they provide vital space to develop theoretical, empirical and practical insights in depth and scopes that standard and often formulaic 40-page journal articles are less able to cater for. In times when the speed of life ceaselessly appears to accelerate, when the interactions between the social, natural, and technological environments become more complex (Helbing et al., 2017; Barrat, 2013; Savory, 1999), we underscore the potential of books to allow and encourage the development of ‘grander’ ideas to respond to ‘grander’ challenges that we face in organizations and wider society. In addition, books proffer an alternative publication avenue when there is concern that the peer review process of top-tier journals (with all its benefits) may eventually eliminate an idea’s creative and unorthodox potential to challenge existing debates, perhaps rekindle them, or open up new theoretical debates. The book may then constitute a living attempt in ‘daring to know’, or “the attitude or spirit by which enquiry [is] being undertaken” as opposed to the mere content of knowledge claims (Holt and den Hond, 2013: 1587). While we know that for some scholars reading academic books can amount to a luxury indulgence given the time pressure many of us face, for us it has often been the case that we publish not despite of reading books, but because of it.
Possible criteria for reviewing books in Organization Studies
But why is it necessary to articulate the potential ‘value’ of books in our editorial? It is necessary because insightful book reviews can help render the value of books more visible . . . . . . . . . . . . . (click on download symbol to read further).