Sunday, May 10, 2015

Self Publishing

In the academic world, self published books do not carry as much value as peer reviewed ones. Self published books are supposed to be second-rate. I have doubts about this conventional wisdom.

My Notes on Achebe's Things Fall, a self published work, has been, and continues to be, widely used in academic settings. It featured, for example, as a resource for students of Cornell University studying Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart.

My Matengo Folktales, also self published, has been used by academic institutions such as the University of California San Diego, College of St. Benedict/St. John's University, Colorado College, St. Olaf College, and Montana State University.

My Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences has been, and continues to be, used in study abroad programs of such institutions as the Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM), Augustana College, Gustavus Adolphus College, South Central College and Minnesota State University Mankato.

My other book, CHANGAMOTO: Insha za Jamii, is in Swahili and not well known. It might, some day, attract the attention of some Swahili instructor and be used as a reader for advanced students.

These works are not perfect. No work is, even with editorial input or peer review. It is possible that my books might have benefitted in some way from a professional editor's input, but I wanted them to speak with my own voice.

If society allows me to speak in my classes without the intervention of reviewers, I do not see why I should be required to submit my work to peer review simply because it is meant for publication. I am skeptical of the cult or fetishism of peer review, mindful of the clever prank Alan Sokal perpetrated on it.

I know the justification of peer review. I do submit articles to peer reviewed journals and have published that way. But I do want to exercise my right to decide which of my works to submit for peer review and which to publish as I see fit, to project a voice that is truly mine.

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