Sad chapter for university presses, by Marilyn Gardner, The Christian
When Northeastern University Press prints the final books on
its 2004 list later this year, the titles will have a dubious distinction:
They will be the last ones bearing the university imprint. After 27 years,
the respected press is shutting down, a casualty of rising costs and
shifting priorities. School officials say they cannot afford subsidies that
now stand at $450,000 and could reach $600,000 this year.
. . .
Northeastern is not alone. The University of Idaho has announced that it is
closing its press July 1, when the deficit will total $385,600. And the
University of Georgia Press faces a possible loss of $289,329 in state
support, half of its annual state subsidy.
. . .
Across the country, 95 university presses publish 11,000 books a year. In
2002, these scholarly works generated $444 million in sales. Although they
account for a fraction of the 150,000 titles published in the US annually,
they create what Douglas Armato, director of the University of Minnesota
Press, calls an impressive cultural entity.
Even so, he says, university presses suffer from stereotypes that they are
simply fossilized recyclers of dissertations.
As one measure of the importance of university press books to broader
audiences, Givler notes that in the months following Sept. 11, 2001, three
previously published volumes quickly became bestsellers:
The New Jackals: Ramzi Yousef, Osama Bin Laden, and the Future of
Taliban (Yale); and
Twin Towers (Rutgers).
It was so unusual that three university press books would be topping the
national bestseller list, Givler says. There is no visible, large,
national market for a lot of these very specialized books. But when
something comes along – 9/11 being the most dramatic and horrible example –
university presses have already published the books about it that people
need to read. They're serving the public need for information, not just
scholars' need for information.