RUSQ (59:3/4) Digital Supplement — Outstanding Business Information Sources 2020

This digital supplement to RUSQ 59:3/4 includes reviews of professional materials, reference sources and the BRASS outstanding business information sources reviews for 2020 and 2021 (view all digital supplements). We thank members of the BRASS Information Sources Committees for 2020 and 2021, our review editors, Anita Slack and Calantha Tillotson, and their reviewers for their work, and RUSA past-president, Courtney McDonald for putting together these supplements.

View current and back issues of RUSQ at https://journals.ala.org/index.php/rusq/index. In spring 2022, the RUSA Publications Taskforce will be releasing a set of recommendations about various RUSA communication tools, including RUSQ. Share your thoughts via our survey. — Barry Trott, editor pro tem, RUSQ.

Introduction

Each year, the Business Information Sources Committee of the Business Reference and Services Section (BRASS) selects the outstanding business information sources published since May of the previous year. This year, the committee reviewed ten entries; of these, four were designated as “Outstanding” and six as “Notable.” To qualify for the award, titles are selected based on their ease of use, quality, and authority. Works are also examined for the following: reputation of the publisher, author, or editor; accuracy; appropriate bibliography; organization; comprehensiveness; value of the content; currency or timeliness; uniqueness; quality and accuracy of index or cited references; and quality and usefulness of graphics and illustrations.

Benjamin Hall, Michigan State University
Member, 2020 Business Information Sources Committee

Outstanding

Divested: Inequality in the Age of Finance. Ken-Hou Lin & Megan Tobias Neely. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2020. ISBN: 0190638311, 9780190638313. $29.95 print, contact publisher for e-book pricing. 232 pages. Illustrations. https://global.oup.com/academic/product/divested-9780190638313

Divested describes the expansion of the financial sector relative to the U.S. economy since the 1970s and traces the shift of capital away from the middle class. The authors argue that the “financialization” of the U.S. economy has exacerbated the growth of social and economic inequity. Clearly written, the text details the interrelatedness of economic policy, the workforce, and finance. Its wide-ranging coverage includes topics such as Occupy Wall Street, the Bretton Woods Agreement, consumer debt, and wage gaps.

Divested is both easily readable and well-documented. The book contains seven thematic chapters, plus an introduction and conclusion, notes, references to additional readings, and an index. Its tables are clearly reproduced, relevant, and well-cited from credible sources. The authors are also sociologists and respected experts in their field. Lin is a faculty member at the University of Texas at Austin, specializing in recent economic and demographic changes in the United States. Neely is a faculty member at the Copenhagen Business School and a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University, studying gender, race, and class inequality in the labor force.

Recently, there has been a spate of publications addressing financialization and inequities. Some of these titles are broader in treatment than Divested (Capital and Ideology by Thomas Piketty; The Ages of Globalization: Geography, Technology, and Institutions by Jeffrey Sachs), while others apply a specific focus, like the impact of race (Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson) or the law (The Code of Capital: How the Law Creates Wealth and Inequality by Katharina Pistor). The largest segment of new publications consists of economists explaining current conditions. Some even provide prescriptions for fixing certain inequities. Nearly every recent Nobel Prize winner, former economic advisor, and economic journalist has a book, which range across political and economic ideologies. Representative titles include the following: Reimagining Capitalism in a World on Fire by Rebecca Henderson; The Deficit Myth: Modern Monetary Theory and the Birth of the People’s Economy by Stephanie Kelton; The New Class War: Saving Democracy from the Managerial Elite by Michael Lind; Economic Dignity by Gene Sperling; People, Power, and Profits: Progressive Capitalism for an Age of Discontent by Joseph Stiglitz.

Suffice to say, strong public and scholarly interests abound for interpreting current conditions and developing workable solutions. Divested offers a comprehensive examination of these and other complex topics, written through a lens that articulates a system’s interconnectedness and impact on people.

This book is recommended for both public and academic library collections.—Adele Barsh, University of California, San Diego


Elevate the Debate: A Multilayered Approach to Communicating Your Research. Edited by Jonathan A. Schwabish. Vedat Akgiray. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2020. 210 p. Paperback $34.95 (ISBN: 978-119-62001-3). E-book $21.00 (ISBN: 978-1-119-62002-0).

In a world where facts are endangered, a multilayered approach to communicating one’s message is essential. Whether at an academic institution, nonprofit, or government agency, researchers and policy makers are stressed by an information landscape that is constantly evolving. With Elevate the Debate: A Multilayered Approach to Communicating Your Research, specialists and scholars alike are presented with strategies, checklists, and techniques for visualizing and communicating data.

The authors’ say that they wrote the book “to demonstrate that being a successful scholar today requires that you share your insights beyond the academic community.”

In today’s crowded media landscape, expert communicators are those who can effectively set the terms of debate. These experts are evidence-based, transparent, and deliberate in their messaging. Many have even developed best practices. The eight chapters in this book are inspired by a series of workshops that the Urban Institute Communications Department conducted between 2016 and 2019. Each chapter addresses a particular element of marketing one’s research, being deliberate, and expanding one’s impact.

The authors share an ethic that research should help improve public policy. The good news is that they have also provided the roadmap to bring evidence-based insights to the vanguard. In the order in which they sometimes materialize, Jonathan Schwabish and his Urban colleagues peel back the communication layers reserved for audience outreach, data visualizations, presentations, blogging, media relations, social media, and assessment. Each chapter is accompanied by several key takeaways and a relevant case study. Unique to Elevate the Debate is also an audience and list brainstorming (p.32-34) for building one’s audience of advocates.

It’s true that many researchers often feel that their work is either largely ignored or even misrepresented. Developing an outreach plan takes skill. Sometimes, even finding an audience takes time: Who are the policy makers? What are their needs? Now, more than ever, experts need audiences. The chapters and expertise in Elevate the Debate are notable for empowering researchers and providing a vision for putting Urban lessons into practice.

Though Elevate the Debate is probably intended for graduate-level researchers, it is a valuable reference resource for undergraduates considering post-secondary education. It is also, obviously, a very timely reference for practitioners in any field.  

This book is recommended for academic library collections and the personal shelves of most faculty.—Benjamin Hall, Michigan State University


The Routledge Handbook on Financial Social Work: Direct Practice with Vulnerable Populations. Edited by Christine Callahan, Jodi Jacobson Frey, and Rachel Imboden. New York, NY: Routledge, 2019. 158 p. $200 hardcover (ISBN: 9780815348993).

Business librarians are already familiar with the concept of financial literacy—the knowledge and ability to manage personal finances. Both academic and public librarians contribute to initiatives promoting financial literacy. Still, many librarians are not familiar with financial social work concepts such as financial capability, which incorporates people’s knowledge and abilities with their opportunities to act in ways that promote financial well-being.

The Routledge Handbook on Financial Social Work: Direct Practice with Vulnerable Populations addresses the importance of financial capability and how practitioners can and should promote financial well-being with clients. Though financial social work is primarily discussed in the context of vulnerable populations, the Handbook provides useful scenarios and interventions for practitioners working with nearly any social group.

The authors emphasize sensitivity and responsiveness when working with clients or communities that may be facing stressful situations. As a result, the Handbook is timely given the psychosocial and financial impacts of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) on individuals, families, and communities. 

The Handbook explores financial social work both as a concept and as a practice. Chapters are written by professors and practitioners in social work, financial counseling, and related fields. The volume is edited by two professors and a doctoral student from the University of Maryland School of Social Work, which is the home of the Financial Social Work initiative.

The introductory chapter outlines the history and importance of financial social work. In chapter two, the authors provide an overview of evidence-based interventions. The remaining chapters provide an overview of the unique issues facing vulnerable populations (domestic violence, medical debt, etc.), and offer recommended intervention models for practitioners working with those individuals. Authors reference scholarly literature when discussing concepts, theories, and evidence-based methods, and each chapter provides its own reference list. Professors will be interested in chapters eleven and twelve, which discuss financial outreach and financial social work education in the context of colleges and universities.

Though the Handbook is intended for social workers, it is a valuable reference resource for undergraduate and graduate students in accounting, finance, financial planning, and related programs which prepare students for working with clients. For example, the Handbook would be especially valuable for students who serve as peer financial counselors on their campuses. The Routledge Handbook on Financial Social Work: Direct Practice with Vulnerable Populations is highly recommended for academic libraries at institutions preparing students for “helping professions.”—Kendra Spahr, Kansas State University


Smart(er) Investing:  How Academic Insights Propel the Savvy Investor. Elisabetta Basilico and Tommi Johnsen.  New York and London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019.  Hardcover $37.99 (ISBN 978-3-030-26691-2).  Contact publisher for e-book pricing (ISBN 978-3-030-26692-9).

Smart(er) Investing:  How Academic Insights Propel the Savvy Investor is a rare blend of academic and applied content, the core of which is an extended, critical literature review of the academic evidence supporting theories of investing and real-world considerations. The core chapters cover index investing, factor investing, multi-asset investing, tail risk hedging, responsible investing, equity and rewards-based crowdfunding, big data and artificial intelligence, and cryptocurrencies. Each chapter includes an abstract, an explanation of the origins of an investment concept, the role of strategy in an investment portfolio, the further evolution of the concept, a review of the academic insights, key takeaways, and practical applications. The footnotes and bibliography to each chapter provide a sensibly selected reading list for each investment strategy. 

Authors Elisabetta Basilico and Tommi Johnsen have long been active in academic circles, applying evidence-based investment research to the real world.  Dr. Johnsen was formerly the Director of the Reiman School of Finance at the University of Denver (Daniels College of Business), and Dr. Basilico has 15 years of experience in academia and international finance.  The book provides a remarkably clear presentation of somewhat opaque material, demonstrating the authors’ expertise in communicating with students and investors as well as academic colleagues.

The first two chapters about how to read and evaluate academic research are worth the price of the book. The initial chapter entitled “What Constitutes Good Investment Research?” contains a wealth of information about sources of bias and error in scholarly research articles of finance. For example, one source of bias and error is the overwhelming need to demonstrate statistically significant results in research. Biased samples or inappropriate statistical procedures can sometimes lead to published research having no capacity to reflect or inform real-world investing. The authors also warn against data mining and what they call “data snooping”—data selected without a solid theoretical foundation. When used inappropriately, these techniques can show patterns that are random rather than reliable in guiding investment behavior. The second chapter outlines how to read an academic article in the field of financial research, which is valuable for business school students at any level. 

The book concludes with a timely chapter on women in finance, discussing why women may be underrepresented in the profession and what research shows may be differences in perception rather than performance. A glossary of finance terms is also included.

The value of Smart(er) Investing lies in the book’s treatment of current topics as well as its emphasis on fundamental concepts; the authors select and summarize important literature in the field while critiquing it and placing it in both theoretical and practical contexts. Smart(er) Investing could be used as a textbook, as a tool for self-instruction, or as a solid reference volume for libraries and those wishing to understand evidence-based investment strategies. The resource is appropriate for academic libraries and other collections serving serious investors.—Roberta Tipton, Rutgers University and Ash Faulkner, The Ohio State University


Notable

Good Finance: Why We Need a New Concept of Finance. Vedat Akgiray. Bristol University Press, 2019. 162p. Paperback £10.39 (ISBN: 978-1529200003). Contact publisher for e-book pricing (ISBN: 978-1529200010).

While many books have been written about the advancement of financialization and the problems with financial markets as they exist today, in Good Finance: Why We Need a New Concept of Finance, Vadat Akgiray explores arguable flaws in the efficient market hypothesis. He also dissects the causes of financial crises, including their socioeconomic impacts, through clear and logical prose.

The book begins with a short history and discussion of finance to familiarize the reader with the basic concepts which underlie financial markets. Akgiray ultimately concludes that the global financial system, as it currently exists, is “fundamentally flawed.” He goes on to discuss the eponymous good finance, also known as “The mechanisms and uses of the financial market that make it a powerful source for matching payers with payees and savers with businesses; a means of managing monetary risk, and as a mechanism for wealth transfer between generations.” Akgiray summarizes problems with the current financial markets using simple headings like “Too Much Debt”; “Too Little Equity”; and “Bad Derivatives”; however, these sections also dive into macroeconomic theory and historical data to argue these points in more depth.

Attempting to provide a simplified visual explanation for often-complex concepts, Akgiray offers the reader plenty of figures and charts. Data is also sourced and cited from reputable sources such as the World Bank, IMF, BIS, OECD and more. Additional notes on data sources and a solid bibliography are also included. Good Finance is notable because it provides a simplified yet ideal view of financial markets. The text also describes the current problems associated with financial markets as they stand and provides potential ideas for making finance ‘good’ again.

Good Finance: Why We Need a New Concept of Finance makes complex discussions accessible to all readers. It is a good fit in the collection of any academic or public library.—Ash E. Faulkner, Ohio State University Libraries


Inside Blockchain, Bitcoin, and Crytocurrencies. Niaz Chowdhury. Boca Raton, FL: Taylor & Francis Group, 2020. 362 p. Hardcover $59.95 (ISBN: 9781138618152). Contact publisher for e-book pricing (ISBN: 9781000507706).

Delving into the details related to this still new and evolving technology (blockchain), author Niaz Chowdhury, with a PhD in Computer Science and currently a Postdoctoral Research Associate at Open University’s Open Blockchain Group, arranges twenty chapters under six sections, including Blockchain and Bitcoin, Smart Contracts, Financial Networks, Advanced Ledgers and Applications, Cryptocurrency, and Socio-Economic Landscape.

Sections usually start with introductory material followed by more detailed information on themes such as structure and methodology. This format should help novice as well as more advanced blockchain enthusiasts. For example, in Chapter One: Introduction to Blockchain, Chowdhury first defines blockchain, and then digs into block structure, mining, forks, consensus mechanisms, and blockchain types.

The scope of the text is broad. Other topics covered include smart contracts and different platforms (e.g., Ethereum), the financial protocols Ripple and Stellar, ledger technology such as Naoris and OriginTrail, blockchain applications (e.g., supply chains), the evolution of money, cryptocurrency wallets, and initial coin offerings. The last section, Socio-Economic Landscape, switches coverage from the technical to the social, reviewing the economic, legal, and regulatory aspects of this new technology as well as public perception. Inside Blockchain…includes a ten-page bibliography that lists books, papers, and articles, but mistakenly labels magazine, newspaper, and newswire articles as “technical reports.” The text’s lack of hyperlinks hinders access to cited sources. Overall, the prose would also benefit from tighter editorial oversight. 

This title is notable for its detailed coverage and many illustrations—there are over 100 figures and tables—that aid understanding. Also, the strict, highly organized, and clear arrangement of information, makes this source easy to browse online or in print, allowing readers to quickly identify different aspects of bitcoin, blockchain, and cryptocurrencies.

Inside Blockchain, Bitcoin, and Crytocurrencies is useful for medium to large academic libraries as well as large public libraries.—Stephen Fadel, California State University at Monterey Bay


Loyalty Management: From Loyalty Programs to Omnichannel Customer Experiences. Cristina Ziliani and Marco Ieva. London: Routledge, 2019. 236 p. Hardcover $155 (ISBN 9780367077624), Paperback $44.95 (ISBN 9780367210724). contact publisher for e-book pricing (ISBN: 9780429022661)

Loyalty Management is based on the authors’ 20 years of research and work on loyalty management programs. Their research begins with a concentration on European information, including broad international examples. Companies like Amazon and Alibaba are covered early in the book with information regarding the history of their customer insight data and loyalty management programs.

Loyalty Management has information that will appeal to both academic researchers and business professionals who are interested in learning about the topic or comparing or expanding their own loyalty programs. There are ten chapters with coverage that includes loyalty marketing, customer experiences and insight, omnichannel marketing, the impact of big data and AI, and looking to the future. In addition to the authors, there are two additional contributors with corporate experience in CRM, loyalty management, and data: Michela Giacomini and Miriam Panico.

The authors’ strong knowledge base is reflected throughout the book and they summarize historical developments concisely so that readers can see how services have changed over time, particularly as programs and initiatives have moved and expanded on digital platforms. Practical examples for companies and brands are also cited extensively and clear explanations of various concepts make this usable for readers new to the industry.

One information gap is that Loyalty Management does not analyze loyalty programs or customer experiences during a negative media period for a company (aside from backlash to loyalty program changes, which is mentioned). Given the level of detail in the Barilla and Starbucks chapters, it’s surprising that there was no mention of any public incidents that may have affected customer loyalty.—Holly Inglis, University of Toronto


Rockonomics: A Backstage Tour of What the Music Industry Can Teach Us about Economics and Life. Alan B. Krueger. New York: Currency, 2019. 336 p. Hardcover $28 (ISBN: 9781524763718). Contact publisher for e-book pricing (ISBN: 9781524763725).

Rockonomics: A Backstage Tour of What the Music Industry Can Teach Us about Economics and Life uses the music industry as an entertaining analogy to illustrate economic principles, including supply and demand, price discrimination, superstar markets, and more. Krueger addresses how the music industry has changed over time, and how digitization and technology—namely streaming services—have played a contributing role.

The book is divided into eleven chapters, plus an appendix and endnotes. The chapters focus on different economic concepts applied to the music industry, such as how musicians make their money, what the musician workforce looks like, the growth in streaming services, and how digitization has transformed the global music market. Chapter four discusses the elements that create a superstar market—specifically, imperfect substitution and scale due to technological advances. Finally, chapter eleven addresses music’s economic utility and outlines current research that associates music with the well-being of consumers.

Rockonomics is a notable title due to the author’s expertise and extensive research on the topic, as well as the readability of the text. The late Alan B. Krueger was a Professor of Political Economy at Princeton University and served under President Obama as the former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers. As an empirical economist, Krueger interviewed and surveyed music professionals and analyzed data from concerts, music streams, record sales, music downloads, and musicians themselves. The combination of scholarly research and the compelling anecdotes from musicians and music professionals make Rockonomics both informative and enjoyable. It is recommended for students and enthusiasts of economics or music.—Zoeanna Mayhook, Purdue University


Rogue Money and the Underground Economy : An Encyclopedia of Alternative and Cryptocurrencies. Edited by John C. Edmunds. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood, 2020. 215 p. Hardcover $63 (ISBN: 978-1-4408-6455-1). Contact publisher for e-book pricing (ISBN: 978-1-4408-6456-8)

Rogue Money and the Underground Economy: An Encyclopedia of Alternative and Cryptocurrencies provides a broad overview of cybercurrency and the legal, economic, historic, and technical issues associated with the “underground economy”.

Given the abundance of news headlines generated by the rise of Bitcoin, one might assume that the editor and contributing authors of Rogue Money would focus solely on cryptocurrencies. And while the book does an excellent job of providing information on cryptocurrencies and directly-related topics, it goes well beyond the cryptographic asset. Rogue Money examines the world of underground and illegal financial activities, and the historical events which contributed to their rise. When appropriate, the encyclopedia clarifies the connections between these events and cybercurrencies, giving readers a complete overview of both topics.

The entries in Rogue Money are clearly and concisely written, making this resource particularly useful for readers who are unfamiliar with the technological implications of cybercurrencies. The writers also do a good job of simplifying and explaining technical concepts. Further adding to the book’s usefulness is a thorough index. Users of the e-book version may also find the hyperlinks quite useful, especially when looking for information on popular topics such as Bitcoin.

Rogue Money and the Underground Economy: An Encyclopedia of Alternative and Cryptocurrencies is a good fit in the reference collections of both academic and public libraries. Entries in the book will serve researchers in numerous disciplines—from undergraduate students seeking an introduction to cryptocurrencies, to scholars looking for background information on specific historical events in the field. Not only will researchers of business, finance, and economics find the book useful, those in computer science fields will also find value in this encyclopedia.—Wayne Finley, Northern Illinois University Libraries


The SAGE Handbook of Sports Economics. Edited by Paul Downward, Bernd Frick, Brad R. Humphreys, Tim Pawlowski, Jane E. Ruseski, and Brian P. Soebbing. London, UK: SAGE, 2019. 610 p. Hardcover $185.00 (ISBN: 9781473979765). $93.00 e-book (ISBN: 9781526444516).

The SAGE Handbook of Sports Economics explores the impact of athletic endeavors, including traditional and professional sporting leagues, and individual and amateur athletics. The book’s 54 chapters are divided into eight sections which address leisure sports, professional sports and leagues, sporting events, etc. Each chapter includes a comprehensive review of the literature for contextual basis and further exploration.

While the handbook explores the obvious in sports economics, such as ticket pricing, television exposure, and even sports betting, it also provides insight into the value of sport for individuals and society. Further insights are provided on sports marketing, management, and even health policy.

It is important to note that while comprehensive, the handbook appears to maintain several omissions or oversights. Chapters evaluating professional sports primarily focus on male athletes and leagues. Meanwhile, the conversation around female athletics is situated within individual sports such as running. There is not a thorough examination of any women’s professional sporting leagues. Additionally, even though a variety of professional sports are examined, those covered are generally popular in Western and English-speaking countries.

The SAGE Handbook of Sports Economics is notable for its broad scope of sports economics coverage. It is an appropriate resource for any academic library that serves students in economics, sports management, health policy, and related fields.—Emily Mross, Penn State Harrisburg Library

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