The Value of University Presses

This week in North Philly Notes, we share “The Value of University Presses,”  which was developed by the Association of University Presses and captures the many ways the world needs presses like Temple. 

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The Value of University Presses

University Presses are at the center of the global knowledge ecosystem. We publish works and perform services that are of vast benefit to the diverse scholarly network—researchers, teachers, students, librarians, and the rest of the university community. Our work also reaches out to a broad audience of readers, and ultimately to the larger world that depends on informed and engaged peer-reviewed scholarship published to the highest standards. Each University Press brings a distinctive vision and mission to its work. Yet we are all guided by, and united in, core values—integrity, diversity, stewardship, and intellectual freedom—that define who we are, the work we do, and the goals to which we aspire.

University Presses and Society

1: University Presses make available to the broader public the full range and value of research generated by university faculty and by scholars outside the academy.

2: University Press books, journals, and digital publications present the foundational research and analysis that is drawn upon by policymakers, opinion leaders, nonprofits, journalists, and influential authors.

3: University Presses contribute to the abundance and variety of cultural expression at a time of continuing consolidation in the commercial publishing industry.

4: University Press publications provide deep insight into the widest range of histories and perspectives, giving voice to underrepresented groups and experiences.

5: University Presses make common cause with libraries, booksellers, museums, and other institutions to promote engagement with ideas and expose the public to a diversity of cultures and opinions.

6: University Presses help draw attention to the distinctiveness of local cultures through publication of works on the states and regions where they are based.

7: University Presses seek a wide readership by publishing in formats from print to ebook to audio to online and by making publications available in accessible alternative formats for those with print-related disabilities.

8: University Press translation programs make available to English-language audiences vital works of scholarship and literary importance written in other languages.

9: University Presses rediscover and maintain the availability of works important to scholarship and culture through reprint programs and through revival of key backlist titles, often via open digital editions.

10: University Presses encourage cultural expression by publishing original works of fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, and the visual arts.

University Presses and Scholarship

11: University Presses, through their rigorous peer review and faculty board approval process, test the validity and soundness of scholarship in order to maintain high standards for academic publication.

12: University Presses add value to scholarly work through careful editorial development; professional copyediting and design; extensive promotion and discoverability efforts; and global distribution networks.

13: University Presses include in their community a wide array of institutions – including scholarly associations, research institutes, government agencies, museums, and international presses – thus representing a diversified research culture.

14: University Presses recognize important fresh perspectives in scholarship by sponsoring work in emerging and interdisciplinary areas that have not yet gained wide attention.

15: University Presses sponsor and develop the work of early-career scholars through publication of their first books, which establish credentials and develop authorial experience.

16: University Presses publish established and start-up scholarly journals in the humanities, social sciences, and STEM disciplines that contribute to a thriving ecosystem of article-based scholarship.

17: University Presses actively promote the translation of works by English-speaking authors into other languages, making their scholarship available to researchers, students, and readers worldwide.

18: University Presses commit to multivolume publishing projects and dynamic digital resources, partnering with librarians, foundations, and other organizations on works of wide scope and enduring importance.

19: University Presses collaborate with learned societies, scholarly associations, and libraries to explore how new technologies can benefit and advance scholarship.

20: University Presses publish books, journal articles, and digital projects used in undergraduate and graduate courses as essential components of well-rounded syllabi and reading lists.

University Presses in the University Community

21: University Presses extend the mission, influence, and brand of their parent institutions, making evident their commitment to knowledge and ideas.

22: University Press publishing programs span the humanities, arts, social sciences, STEM fields, and professional schools, representing the full expanse of university research.

23: University Presses demonstrate their parent institutions’ support of research in essential academic fields – particularly in the humanities and social sciences – that are rarely supported by federal or corporate funding.

24: University Presses extend their parent institutions’ efforts at community engagement and outreach by publishing books of interest to their local communities and to a broader regional readership.

25: University Presses raise the public profile and reputation of their parent institutions by generating positive news coverage and reviews, receiving book awards, and maintaining active social media presences.

26: University Presses play a leading role in experimenting with and developing new platforms for delivering and engaging with scholarship.

27: University Presses partner with campus libraries, digital humanities centers, and other university departments to advance non-traditional initiatives in scholarly communication.

28: University Presses provide distribution and other publishing services to other university units and also act as distributors for independent publishers, ranging from established presses to innovative scholar-led initiatives.

29: University Press staff act as local experts for faculty and administrators, providing guidance on intellectual property, scholarly communication, and the publishing process.

30: University Presses engage in the teaching and learning mission by providing substantive work study, internship, and apprenticeship experiences for undergraduate and graduate students.

This essential document, articulating the value of university presses, was originally created in 2000 by a working group of three Association board members, Douglas Armato (Minnesota), Steve Cohn (Duke), and Susan Schott (Kansas). In 2018, the Association of University Presses invited Armato to form a new author group to update it. Our thanks go to him, Lisa Bayer (Georgia), Mahinder Kingra (Cornell), Erich van Rijn (California), and Stephanie Williams (Ohio) for this renewed statement.

Approved by the AUPresses Board of Directors June 2019.

University Presses Are Thriving, Not Broken

This week in North Philly Notes, we repost an article about the state of University Presses by Derek Krissoff, Director of West Virginia University Press, that appeared in Inside Higher Ed on October 2.

A casual observer might reasonably assume that university presses are in crisis, or deserve to be. Mainstream outlets routinely proclaim that “academic publishing is broken,” and the new documentary Paywall, currently making the rounds on college campuses, argues that “academic publishers are burdening the higher education market, contributing to the rising tuition fees at all universities . . . and, ultimately, limiting science and progress.”

Whether they say it or not (and Paywall, to its credit, does), these criticisms are directed at commercial publishers of expensive STEM journals rather than not-for-profit university presses, which specialize primarily in books in humanities and social science fields. Think Elsevier vs. the University of Massachusetts Press. The big critiques that make headlines and generate documentaries don’t generally mention university presses at all, leaving many to assume that they’re part of what’s depicted as the problem of rapacious scholarly publishers.

When observers do turn to university presses, the story’s often more grim than angry. Much attention is paid to threatened press closures; less to the opening of new presses or the frequent decisions to keep open presses previously slated to shut down. (How many people know that the University of Akron Press, noisily slated for closure in 2015, not only stayed open but had a finalist for the National Book Award last year?) “Several presses have closed and almost all are struggling,” intoned Richard W. Clement in 2011, distilling a gloomy timbre that persists in many assessments of the industry.

Variously erased, posited as a problem to be solved, and assumed to be dinosaurs on their way out, university presses are in fact, in their low-key fashion, thriving. There are more of them than ever before, and they’re doing better: sales in the industry were up 5 percent last year. That growth isn’t, moreover, coming from cash-strapped libraries. Only 20 to 25 percent of university press sales are to libraries (down from 70 percent forty years ago), and at the University of California, to pick one example, only 7 percent of library budget goes to books of any kind.

As anger spreads over libraries being squeezed by STEM journals from large for-profits, university presses are growing in part by looking beyond a narrow focus on library markets and publishing for new audiences, branching out into crossover titles, supplemental texts, regional books, popular reference works, manifestos, graphic novels, and the like. It’s an entrepreneurial flourishing that engages new readers, creates new communities, and extends the reputation of those universities fortunate enough to have presses.

At the same time, widespread predictions that university presses might abandon less profitable fields and undermine the career prospects of junior scholars seem not to have panned out: 83 percent of scholarly monographs find a publisher. Presses may be publishing new sorts of books, but not at the expense of traditional ones.

Technology, meanwhile, hasn’t changed things the way its most confident champions (some of whom predicted a shift to primarily online publishing) believed to be inevitable. At most university presses 85 to 90 percent of sales continue to come from print. While ebooks aren’t the gamechanger some technophiles expected, a different shift—the ability to print books digitally—has made a huge difference, enabling presses to do small print runs responsibly. When I started in publishing twenty years ago I was told a new book required an initial print run of at least 2,000 copies to be viable. Now we can do just a few books at a time, if necessary, making it easier to continue the mission-driven publishing at our core, even when audiences are specialized.

The growth of virtual spaces for publicizing books and building communities around publishing programs has been the other seismic change made possible by the digital turn. But the results of online marketing often show up in print sales and IRL interactions (think: nicely publicized bookstore events) rather than digital downloads.

So what about open access for books? The approach has promise, particularly for some specialized titles that don’t reward the high-investment model of conventional publishing. But OA publishing costs money, just like conventional publishing—money that comes from somewhere even if it isn’t the customer. Simply changing who pays for publishing isn’t necessarily progressive and can exacerbate or reinscribe inequalities. For example, plans to have authors’ universities cover the costs of publication ($35,000 per book, according to a study from Ithaka) may limit the pool of potential authors to those employed by wealthier institutions. Limitations like these may help account for the fact that only 1 percent of new scholarly books in English are published open access.

Saying that university presses are resilient, and that their recent history is characterized by continuity more than disruption, isn’t meant to suggest they’re static. University presses have always experimented, and they’ll continue to do so; they face challenges and, like the rest of the university, respond creatively. But university presses are best positioned to make the most of current prospects if they’re seen as valuable, not broken—if proposed changes are understood as having the potential to ensure a range of complementary publishing options, including the surprisingly durable model of traditional publishing.

Derek Krissoff (@DerekKrissoff) is director at West Virginia University Press, the only university press, and largest book publisher of any kind, in West Virginia.

White paper from Temple-hosted summit of university presses reporting to libraries now available

University Press and Library Summit Releases White Paper, Recommendations

 The P2L Summit brought together 23 teams of university library and press directors with an administrative relationship (typically the press reporting to the library—“P2L”) on May 9–10, 2016, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Convened by the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), the Association of American University Presses (AAUP), and the Coalition for Networked Information (CNI), the P2L Summit was funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and hosted by Temple University Libraries and Temple University Press.

In this first such meeting of members of this community, the library-press teams discussed the benefits of, challenges in, and possibilities around this kind of relationship. Summit participants explored how libraries and presses might leverage the strengths of their distinctive enterprises to move toward a unified system of publication, dissemination, access, and preservation that better serves both the host institution and the wider world of scholarship. The P2L Summit was an important first step toward a shared action agenda for university presses and academic libraries that supports a full spectrum of approaches to scholarly communication and publishing.

P2L Summit organizers Mary Rose Muccie (Temple University Press), Joe Lucia (Temple University Libraries), Elliott Shore (ARL), Clifford Lynch (CNI), and Peter Berkery (AAUP) have released a white paper on the summit, “Across the Great Divide: Findings and Possibilities for Action from the 2016 Summit Meeting of Academic Libraries and University Presses with Administrative Relationships (P2L).” The white paper discusses key issues covered in the summit, areas that need greater mutual understanding between libraries and presses, the press’s role on campus, preliminary recommendations that came out of the summit, and the European perspective on these issues as presented by Wolfram Horstmann (Göttingen State and University Library, Germany).

Appendices to the P2L Summit white paper include the text of the opening keynote presentation by Scott Waugh (UCLA) on “The Role of Libraries and University Presses in the Scholarly Eco-system: A Provost’s Perspective”; a roster of summit participants; results and analysis of a pre-summit survey of teams of press and library deans/directors, about how those relationships are managed; the summit agenda; and the text of Clifford Lynch’s closing remarks on the summit.

The white paper concludes by noting a subsequent summit, P2L2, will continue this collective conversation and delve deeply into the recommendations from the first summit as well as those proposed in other contexts. Open to a wider audience, P2L2 will focus on collaboration—both intra- and inter-institutional—and on strategies to reinforce the library and press joint mission and advance the shared goal of promulgating scholarship. Details about P2L2 will be announced in 2017.

About the Association of American University Presses

The Association of American University Presses (AAUP) is an organization of nearly 140 international nonprofit scholarly publishers. Since 1937, AAUP advances the essential role of a global community of publishers whose mission is to ensure academic excellence and cultivate knowledge. The Association holds integrity, diversity, stewardship, and intellectual freedom as core values. AAUP members are active across many scholarly disciplines, including the humanities, arts, and sciences, publish significant regional and literary work, and are innovators in the world of digital publishing. AAUP is on the web at http://www.aaupnet.org/.

About the Association of Research Libraries

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) is a nonprofit organization of 124 research libraries in the US and Canada. ARL’s mission is to influence the changing environment of scholarly communication and the public policies that affect research libraries and the diverse communities they serve. ARL pursues this mission by advancing the goals of its member research libraries, providing leadership in public and information policy to the scholarly and higher education communities, fostering the exchange of ideas and expertise, facilitating the emergence of new roles for research libraries, and shaping a future environment that leverages its interests with those of allied organizations. ARL is on the web at ARL.org.

About the Coalition for Networked Information

The Coalition for Networked Information (CNI) is dedicated to supporting the transformative promise of digital information technology for the advancement of scholarly communication and the enrichment of intellectual productivity. Some 230 institutions representing higher education, publishing, information technology, scholarly and professional organizations, foundations, and libraries and library organizations make up CNI’s members; CNI is entirely funded through membership dues. Semi-annual membership meetings bring together representatives of CNI’s constituencies to discuss ongoing and new projects, and to plan for future initiatives. Learn more about CNI at https://www.cni.org/.

About Temple University

Temple University is a public, four-year research university and a national leader in education, research, and healthcare. Founded by Dr. Russell H. Conwell in 1884, Temple’s official motto—Perseverantia Vincit, or Perseverance Conquers—reflects its students’ drive to succeed and commitment to excellence. Temple is a vital institution in the Philadelphia region and commonwealth of Pennsylvania, contributing more than $3 billion toward Pennsylvania’s economy each year. The university also has a strong global reach, with long-standing and vibrant campuses in Tokyo and Rome, programs in London, Beijing, and other locations worldwide, and over 300,000 alumni living around the world. Temple University is on the web at http://www.temple.edu/.

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