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December 14, 1986|Joseph Gusfield

COMMUNICATING IDEAS: THE CRISIS OF PUBLISHING IN A POST-INDUSTRIAL SOCIETY by Irving Louis Horowitz (Oxford: $21.95; 256 pp.). This informed and intelligent volume introduces readers to current developments in the dissemination of ideas. The author, a well-known sociologist, journal editor (Society/Transaction) and publisher (Transaction Books), describes, analyzes and evaluates several aspects of trends in publishing.

Horowitz sees new technologies producing a multi-layered system of communication in which older forms, such as books, will still remain significant. His worry is about the content of communication: The distinction between information and knowledge may become blurred; the more analytic, speculative and interpretive elements of knowledge, less readily developed through computers, may become less valued. Problems of "fair use and fair return" are accentuated by the easy and rapid reproducibility which computer technology makes possible. The character of property in ideas is endangered, especially in Third World use of Western publications.

The last part of the book is an excellent discussion of the structure and changing aspects of social science publishing. Here Horowitz analyzes both the constraints of the economic market on publishing and the ways in which the nature of academic organizations and culture limit such pressures. He is alive to the possibilities and barriers for academics to reach wider audiences and for lay-persons to utilize scholarship. Both groups can learn much from this intelligent book.

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