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.
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An Advocate for Electronic Publishing

Alex Holzman, director of Temple University Press, advocates electronic publishing in this excerpt from his speech at the 2009 Association of American University Presses Annual Meeting

There is no question that the current distribution system for book-length academic scholarship is broken.  We live in a print world that this year saw returns spike as never before.  I watched in both horror and genuine fascination as our March returns at Temple hit close to ninety percent.  And our overall returns for the year will be close to one-third.  Think about that.  Even with reduced print runs we continue to live in a world where the books go out, then get returned, then go out, then get returned.  Great for FedEx and UPS and Yellow Freight, not so much for us or the environment.  When we do sell a book for a course, it often is sold back to the bookstore that sold it, then resold at a price that helps the student save a little money and helps the bookstore bottom line, but cuts out both author and publisher who created the product in the first place.  So it has been in my thirty-plus years in publishing and so, many have said, it must always be.

Not any more.  Suddenly this year e-books have become increasingly attractive, in the first instance to us and, I’m finding, to librarians.  Several of our members—Cambridge, Johns Hopkins, Chicago, Stanford via Highwire, to name a few—are investigating new ways to offer e-books from multiple presses to librarians.  Commercial entities like Ingram and Baker & Taylor are also gearing up.  And so I am inclined to say don’t even bother to try to fix the old system—let’s invent a new one!

(Full disclosure—NYU, Rutgers, Penn, and Temple have just received a Mellon grant to investigate how best to establish a university press e-book platform and do so quickly.)

Why a new system and why now?  Because I can see an e-world—always backed up by print on demand, by the way—where we save most PP&B costs, where there are no returns and no used books, and where the varieties of ways to sell, rent, or rent-to-buy are subject only to what the market tells us it wants.  I am thinking not only of libraries, where this should and will take place first, but also all the course adoptions that now form the bread and butter of our backlists.  Being an optimist, I also see such a system eventually being used to pick and choose on chapter as well as book level—a plus for faculty—and being easy enough to use that illegal use of such materials on Blackboard will no longer be worth the effort or provide a sufficient cost-saving.

Are there things to work out?  Yes, and a lot of them and it won’t be easy.  First the models for libraries to purchase, the implementation of a manageable approval process, the achievement of critical masses of university press materials on just a few—but not just one—site, the servicing and archiving of files.  Extend the system to students and there are questions concerning how students pay, where they pay, what they get exactly.  That is, a downloadable file?  Web access for a semester?  Something else?

Yes, there are vast details to work out but for the first time I believe the benefits of doing so outweigh the costs.  Imagine for a moment a new system where libraries have a more workable means for buying monographs, students can save some money buying textbooks, and university presses are freed from returns and used books.  Three citizenries of the university all benefit from the change in system and we university presses fulfill our roles not only as university citizens but as those who are charged specifically with disseminating the best scholarship to the widest possible audience for the lowest possible price.  Not free and not open access because I don’t necessarily agree that free to end user is always the most desirable model, though I’m certainly open to it when it is.

This win-win-win vision is at this point utopian and I am aware of the pitfalls of utopian thinking.  But really—has anybody got a better idea?

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