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The Future of the University Press

Review - Publishing Package

We asked publishers, press directors, editors, scholars, and other insiders for their views on the state and future of academic publishing. Of the people we contacted, including the heads of nearly every one of the Association of American University Presses’ 143 members, 46 sent back responses to our questions. We got back a surprisingly wide range of views — and good ideas on how university presses are preparing for an uncertain future.

  • The Review

    What is the biggest challenge in university-press publishing?

    People are convinced there’s a crisis in university-press publishing — that we’re dying off in significant numbers, that we’re unsustainable, that dramatic changes are inevitable. None of this is true. Print, books, and bookstores are all healthy. Library sales are on the decline, it’s true, but…
  • The Review

    Do we need more university presses? Fewer?

    There are about 125 university presses, and somewhere around 4,000 institutions of higher learning. For decades, universities that don’t have presses have relied on the few that do for the scholarly production of their faculty. University presses became the gatekeepers and validators not only of…
  • The Review

    Acquisitions editors are overwhelmingly white. How does this affect what gets published?

    The lack of diversity among university press editors is a serious problem. Solving this problem will take a sustained effort to recruit and promote highly qualified people from diverse backgrounds. Fortunately for presses, given the scarcity of jobs in academe, these people are not actually hard to…
  • The Review

    What is the most common misunderstanding that scholars have about university presses?

    Just how much work goes into every book and how many hands touch each project. —Justin Race • That the only cost of making a book, for example, is the cost of paper, printing, and binding. We peer review, we develop, we copy-edit, we proofread, we design, we typeset, we market, we sell, we submit…
  • The Review

    What topic areas are overpublished?

    I don’t think we need another book defending the liberal arts. They are sermons to the converted. —Greg Britton • We have enough Big History to last several lifetimes. —Elizabeth Branch Dyson • I don’t know, but diminishing sales will tell us soon and then we’ll all move to overpublishing in a…
  • The Review

    How should the university press role in hiring and promotion change?

    This shift away from publishing monographs parallels a much more damaging decline in tenure and the increased reliance on contingent faculty labor. The problem for a young scholar isn’t getting published. It is getting a job that affords time to think and write. —Greg Britton • No, the number of…
  • The Review

    Scholarly prose gets a bad rap. Is it deserved?

    Sometimes. I recently had an editorial consultant tell me that manuscripts come to publishers in much worse shape than they used to because the university secretaries who used to edit and format the professors’ work have disappeared.—Leila Salisbury • I get frustrated when critics attack scholarly…
  • The Review

    How will university presses look 20 years from now?

    As Umberto Eco says, there are some things you can’t reinvent. Spoons, wheels, books. But university presses will change. I predict that the biggest change in the university-press world will not be the effects of some e-pocalypse or even the advent of open access; the biggest transformation will be…
  • The Review

    What book do you wish someone would write?

    A cultural history of privacy from Watergate to Facebook. —Derek Krissoff • A one-volume major history of diplomacy.—Peter J. Dougherty • A primary-source reader on the origins of misogyny.—Beatrice Rehl • It’s more the type of book I wish someone would publish. At a moment when our ability to have…
  • The Review

    Our Contributors

    Ranjit Arab is senior acquisitions editor at the University of Iowa Press. Bruce Austin is director of RIT Press. Meredith Babb is director of the University Press of Florida. Greg Britton is editorial director of the Johns Hopkins University Press, and acquiring editor for books on higher…