August 2013 Editorial

So Many Books, So Little Time…

Photograph of Tom Radko

The University of Chicago Press first introduced me to the world of scholarly publishing when, as was true of so many, I migrated from Chicago’s graduate school to the Press in search of business opportunities outside the classroom.  As a publicity assistant, I occupied a low rung on the Press’s corporate ladder, but I had the exhilarating task of sending review copies far and wide to journals, magazines, and other venues--all in the search for media coverage so crucial to our publicity campaigns.  It was 1975, the year I first discovered Choice.

Nearly 40 years later, I find myself as Choice’s publisher liaison and general manager overseeing our office’s mail room, publisher (and reviewer) database, and the administrative staff responsible for creating bibliographic entries for books assigned for external review.  This administrative unit of eight staffers, including two Wesleyan student interns, may be somewhat removed from the front lines of our operation, but it is critical to organizing the huge volume of both books and data necessary for Choice’s content.  Because we frequently receive queries from publishers asking what they might expect once their complimentary review copies arrive at our front door, some attempt at transparency might be helpful to our readers.

Book deliveries via USPS, FedEx, UPS, and truck freight arrive daily, and we can expect at least 25,000 titles to be dropped off in Choice’s compact mail room annually.  It does not matter if books are addressed to individuals by name; each one is unwrapped by staffer John Adams, scanned into our publishing system with the aid of the book’s bar code, grouped by academic classification, and delivered to the appropriate in-house editor.  Editors seriously consider each and every title, assign for external review those deemed most appropriate for our audience (approximately 7,000 titles annually), and turn away the rest (given the volume of submissions, not all fine books can be reviewed).

Once books are assigned, the efforts of other colleagues within Choice’s administrative unit kick in: Colleen Barile makes certain she knows the whereabouts of our dedicated reviewers (approximately 3,200 in the pool); Evelyn Butts, our library technical assistant, spearheads the creation of bibliographic records for assigned titles; Sharon Coleman processes the reviews (over 600) our office receives each month; and Sheila Laverty helps me respond to the nearly 500 inquiries we receive monthly from publishers with a wide assortment of questions.

In 1975, I was the one checking in with Choice about the status of Chicago’s review copy submissions.  Now, nearly 40 years later, it is my turn to be on the receiving end of so many fine books being published--not only by Chicago but by many, many other publishers.  Throughout the time I’ve been happily engaged with the publishing community, the book’s death knell has been sounded more times than I can count.  But the book is still going strong, Choice is still publishing current reviews for academic libraries, and publishers continue to supply us with an amazing array of titles.  Choice wouldn’t be what it is without so many publishers doing what they do best.  For that, we offer our sincere thanks.  So many books, so little time.…—Tom Radko