Since the previous editorial on this subject ( Watson 1999) the Book Reviews section has been renamed the Media Reviews section. This was intended to reflect and encourage a greater number of reviews of media other than books including CD-ROMs, Internet sites and software for teaching and research. However, we continue mainly to review books and this confirms that, despite the increase in electronic publishing, publication in hard copy survives. Given the large number of new books published annually we are increasingly selective. The Journal of Advanced Nursing is clearly very popular as we managed to publish 132 reviews in 1999 whereas some nursing journals only published a handful. Other journals devote fewer pages to reviews, and publish longer reviews, but this policy also reflects their receipt of fewer new books. The Journal of Advanced Nursing is always pleased to receive books for review but because of the volume we publish (124 items in 1999) and the available publishing space, we have of necessity to reduce the intake of books. For the forthcoming year we will not be requesting media for review other than those pieces that are sent unsolicited.
In addition, as indicated above, the length of single media reviews has been reduced to 250 words in order to accommodate more reviews and the length of review articles, where several reviews are combined, has been reduced to 1000 words. All reviews now conform to this format. The quality of the reviews has not decreased and may, in fact, have improved. Despite the varying length and breadth of books, most reviewers manage to convey the essence of a book in 250 words and much extraneous opinion about matters not directly relevant to the media under review has been eliminated.
In the near future, media reviewers will notice some other changes to the process of reviewing. More guidance will be issued in the covering letter requesting a review. Accompanying each review request will be all the relevant details of the review required. For example, with book review requests there will be a slip containing the title, author(s)/editor(s), publisher, and place of publication, number of pages and the ISBN number. This slip should be returned with the review and, in case of loss, a duplicate will be held by the Media Reviews Editor. This should overcome one of the most frequently encountered problems at the editing and proof stage: missing details. It should be noted that we are no longer able, due to pressure on the editorial staff, to offer a photocopy of the review once it is published. Instead, we point reviewers to the current pages of Journal of Advanced Nursing where they should find their review published in due course. The length of time between submission of a review to publication cannot be specified but we are working hard to reduce this and some of the measures described above have been introduced towards that end.
In the era of the United Kingdom Universities Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), I continue to be grateful that people are willing to publish books and that we have dedicated reviewers willing to review them. It is not true that books and chapters are ineligible for submission in the RAE. However, it is absolutely clear in the guidance for RAE submission that materials prepared purely for educational purposes are not eligible. They do not count as appropriate scholarship. Nevertheless, many of the books we continue to review are written precisely for educational purposes and the world of publishing, education and reviewing would be duller without them.
The intention, when I began this series of editorials, was to review annually the media reviews published in terms of subject material, media and quality. However, they have been mainly concerned with the process of reviewing. The submission to and requests for books by the Journal of Advanced Nursing is not systematic and is based on the willingness of publishers to submit media unsolicited; on the interest of the Media Reviews Editor in certain books; and on occasional requests by individual reviewers for us to obtain a particular medium for them to review. Suffice to say that the subject material is wide and continues to include media other than nursing that are relevant to the discipline. These include foundational material — biology, psychology and sociology — research books which may inform methodologically and medical texts that are directly relevant to nursing practice. Nursing texts cover clinical practice, theoretical developments and research studies. It is rare for us to reject an item for review but the occasional thesis and unpublished monograph is returned politely because they are not publications in the generally accepted sense.
Very little comment regarding the Media Reviews pages reaches the Journal of Advanced Nursing. During my own time as Media Reviews Editor there have been no adverse reactions to individual reviews. This is surprising given that reviews are not always complimentary and the reviews are always copied to the publishers. Presumably the publishers copy them to the relevant authors and editors. Nevertheless, the Janforum pages are available should anyone want to take issue with a review or the Media Reviews pages generally.
Finally, one further change is taking place to the media reviewing process. Until now the Blackwell Science office has always processed reviews. However, pressure on that office due to the increasing number of manuscripts submitted has led to the devolution of the processing of reviews to the Media Reviews Editor. From now on my office at the University of Hull will handle the media for review and the manuscripts of reviews. I would like to thank Sarah Jewell and her predecessors for their help to date and welcome on board my secretary Josephine Salisbury.