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I came across the following statement by the Chicago University Press:

If your book has its origins in a dissertation, your acknowledgments should not draw attention to this fact, as it will discourage library sales and book review attention.

Why are dissertation-based books looked down upon?

A dissertation-based book is not necessarily of low quality. I was surprised to read such a statement from a respected publisher. Isn't this unprofessional? If there is such a stereotype, shouldn't a publisher like the Chicago University Press refrain from nurturing it?

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    You might expect that if your book is based on a dissertation, and the dissertation is freely available through your library, then people might be inclined to download the dissertation rather than pay for the book. – Tyler Jul 26 '17 at 18:47
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    Interesting perspective, but it does not account for the second consequence in the statement: "book review attention," which seems related to quality. Correct me if I'm wrong. Thank you. – EasternRiver Jul 26 '17 at 19:01
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    @EasternRiver Why not? Who wants to review a book no one will buy? – Bryan Krause Jul 26 '17 at 19:25
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    In my eyes and my field (chemistry): if the content of the PhD thesis is not published in peer reviewed journals within 2 years it isn't worth reading in 95% of the cases. I wouldn't buy such a book. If it's published in peer reviewed articles then there's no point in buying the book anyways. – user64845 Jul 26 '17 at 22:47
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    In my field (sociology), a student is expected to derive up to two or three journal articles from the dissertation, and normally this should not exhaust the dissertation's originality, meaning a good one should still be worth turning into a book or buying. – EasternRiver Jul 27 '17 at 0:15
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Simply compare the number of dissertations and books published in a field. A dissertation can be strong enough to provide enough material for a technical book, but it is rarely the case. A dissertation is normally focused on a specific research work, but a book is expected to be comprehensive. In rare cases, a PhD student has a comprehensive perspective of the field to write a flawless book.

It is legitimate and understandable that a publisher (university-based or independent) pays a particular attention to the marketing factors. The readers normally expect a book written by an experienced academic rather than a PhD student.

The publisher simply avoids highlighting any point, which might have a negative impact on the potential buyers, and leave them to judge the book based on its contents. They simply want to avoid prejudice about the book.

So, don't worry, they do not undermine the quality of PhD dissertations.

And believe me, marketing is as technical as your field of study, and has its own rules.

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  • "A dissertation is normally focused on a specific research work, but a book is expected to be comprehensive." Maybe that's true for technical fields. In my field (social science), a dissertation "on a specific research work" is book material. As to "writ[ing] a flawless book," that can be gleaned from the publisher of the work. A book by Chicago Press means a "a flawless book," if there is such a thing, meaning it is worth the investment. "They simply want to avoid prejudice about the book." Chicago Press is, I believe, already in a position to fight prejudice not just avoid it. +1 – EasternRiver Jul 26 '17 at 21:42

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