Author: Luis-Miguel Romero – Translation: Erika-Lucia Gonzalez-Carrion|

According to the Royal Spanish Academy there are about fifty types of books -in its conceptual breadth- (ecclesiastical, registry, accounting…), although in this post we will focus on those that are of interest for academic, informative, essayistic and research works.

For legal purposes, a book is any non-periodical printed (and digital) book that contains more than 49 pages (UNESCO, 1964) and complies with the requirement of having an international numeric identifier (ISBN). In Spain, in addition, there is an obligation to deposit four copies in any format with the public administration if the purpose of the book is its sale or distribution, as a measure to preserve the country’s cultural and intellectual heritage. These processes are generally carried out by the publishing houses, although the funds of Universities and Research Centers also usually do so.

To organize the types of books in this post, we will divide them into three groups: teaching books, reference or reference books, and scientific or research books.

Teaching books

The purpose of this type of work is to serve as a reference for undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students on a specific subject or series of subjects, although they also seek to align the contents of an area of knowledge for teachers of the same university or country. Among them we can find manuals, instructions and guides.

The structure of the teaching books generally follows the evolution of the subject to be covered. That is to say, they start from the basic, introductory and core aspects to the more complex development of the subject, so it is normal that the indexes are very similar to the syllabus of a teaching guide or syllabus.

Although the writing style of teaching works will depend on the educational level for which it is intended (undergraduate, graduate, doctoral), they should be clear and orderly, since the intention is that students and other teachers can, through their reading, understand and deepen the content of a subject. It is, so to speak – and saving distances – the evolution of the school textbook.

Reference or consultation books

In this type of works, much more extensive in subcategories than the previous one, there are monographs, books of debates, white papers, memoirs, annals, essays, among others. The purpose of these is to discuss, debate and contrast on one or several thematic axes.

Obviously, their structure and writing style will depend on their purpose, since a white paper produced as a report by a research group or center for a public entity is not the same as a book of debate or essay, with a more explanatory and free-format vision. Likewise, memoirs and annals are very different from conference proceedings or reference monographs.

Scientific books or books of research results

A popular science book is an individual or collective work that deals with the same area or field of knowledge and presents the results of research(s). It is generally structured in chapters, either having among all of them, or each of them independently, the structure of a research report (Introduction, Materials and Method, Results, Discussion, Conclusions and References).

These books are usually coordinated by research groups, networks or centers, as well as by associations of researchers, although they are increasingly standardized as a form of dissemination and transfer product of research projects in Europe.

Given the very specific nature of this type of work, publishers know that they are difficult to market – as they are not of general interest, as in the case of reference books, or collective, as in the case of teaching books – so they usually charge authors, groups, networks or associations a fee to cover the costs of their production.

Indicators of “quality” of a publishing house and books

Hyperbolically, there are more publishers in Ibero-America than books published. Although there is currently more demand to publish – rather than read – articles in scientific journals, given the pressures of many universities and accreditation agencies in Spain and Latin America, the publishing world continues to exist, although its capacity has been diminished for at least 15 years.

There are universities and research centers that have their own collections and publishing houses. There are also countries that have publishing houses in ministries (such as Education or Culture), in the headquarters of public authorities (such as the legislature and the judiciary), and even in regional and local entities, in addition to all the global private initiatives in this regard. Digitization has also contributed to the emergence of new types of publishing houses and print-on-demand services (which are not the same thing), which raises the question: where is it better to publish for my curriculum development?

Publishing a book to have a wide reach can be done under self-printing formats or with open licenses (such as Creative Commons) that allow it to be uploaded to the Internet without any rights issues. However, this modality may not be positive in light of its recognition by teacher evaluation agencies (such as ANECA, Conacyt, ColCiencias, etc.).

In this order of ideas, some teacher evaluation agencies are usually guided by the inclusion of publishers and books in specific indexes, such as:

  • Scholarly Publishers Indicators (SPI): this is a ranking of the prestige of academic publishers (Spanish and international), promoted by the Federación del Gremio de Editores de España, funded by the Spanish Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport, and carried out by the Research Group on the Academic Book (ILIA) of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC). It was last updated in 2018.
  • Seal of Quality in Academic Publishing (CEA-APQ): this is another Spanish initiative endorsed by the Spanish Federation of Science and Technology (FECYT), the National Agency for Quality Assessment and Accreditation (ANECA) and promoted by the Union of Spanish University Publishers (UNE). For its fifth call, in September 2021, 49 collections of Spanish university publishers have obtained this seal of quality.
  • Book Citation Index (BKCI) de Clarivate Analytics: This is a section of the Clarivate Analytics Web of Science that includes more than 60,000 books that have passed an internal selection process (selective index), in which the citations generated by the book in other WoS documents are analyzed, all the metadata of the editorial work is captured and the reference records are linked. Unlike the previous ones, the inclusion of a work in the BKCI is done after the book is published.

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