Academic Publisher Introduces Camouflaged Editions?

I was one of the outside readers1 for a volume in Cambridge University Press’s enormous “Elements” series, The New Witches of the West, by Ethan Doyle White. (Link is to Amazon US) To find that title, go to the main page and drill down from Religion to New Religious Movements.

I was supposed to be paid in book credit, but when I went to order my chosen books, there were computer problems. (Interestingly, as I write this, the press’s website announces, “Last updated 27/06/24: Online ordering is currently unavailable due to technical issues.”) So I wrangled a cash payment and ordered the book I most wanted from, yes, Amazon.

In late June I received a complimentary copy of The New Witches of the West. I read the back-cover text then opened the book, only to find myself reading one of the “Elements in the Philosophy of Biology,” namely Social Darwinism by Jeffrey O’Connell and Michael Ruse.

This Element is a philosophical history of Social Darwinism. It begins by discussing the meaning of the term, moving then to its origins, paying particular attention to whether it is Charles Darwin or Herbert Spencer who is the true father of the idea. It gives an exposition of early thinking on the subject, covering Darwin and Spencer themselves and then on to Social Darwinism as found in American thought, with special emphasis on Andrew Carnegie, and Germany with special emphasis on Friedrich von Bernhardi. Attention is also paid to outliers, notably the Englishman Alfred Russel Wallace, the Russian Peter Kropotkin, and the German Friedrich Nietzsche. From here we move into the twentieth century looking at Adolf Hitler – hardly a regular Social Darwinian given he did not believe in evolution – and in the Anglophone world, Julian Huxley and Edward O. Wilson, who reflected the concerns of their society.

This got me to thinking. Just a glitch in the print-on-demand system (assuming CUP are doing that)? A one-time glitch, or did multiple copies ship out with the mismatched cover and contents?

There are, sadly, regions in Academia where it might be safer to be seen with a book on witchcraft (providing it is transgressive, stunning, and brave) rather than one containing names like N******* and H*****. Maybe this is just like the pre-smartphone days when kids pretended to read their large hardbound social studies book (or whatever) in class while secreting a comic book inside. Fake book covers are still a cottage industry.

  1. That job involves assessing an author’s proposal or manuscript and making suggestions for improvement. []

One thought on “Academic Publisher Introduces Camouflaged Editions?

  1. Pitch313

    Print on demand turns out to be as susceptible to the theory of “Lemons” as every other sort of manufacturing.

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