Market Focus: University Presses Press on Through Recession
One might think that all other problems fade into the background when there’s a recession, but for university presses, that’s certainly not true. Questions about changes in education funding and student habits rear up alongside concerns about preparing for the digital future; still, the country’s economic woes are plaguing university presses, and the stress is not likely to disappear anytime soon.
According to many university press executives, the industry didn’t fare too poorly for the first two quarters of last year, but by October and November, things were looking much less rosy.
“The recession is a game-changer,” says Doug Armato, director of the University of Minnesota Press. “University presses have had pretty modest growth in the past three years. Business has been growing slowly, but steadily, and now it’s being hit.”
The area that is being hit hardest is scholarly publishing, says Armato.
For New York University Press, the big impact of the economy has been on print, which comprises 95 percent of the company’s revenue, according to director Steve Maikowski.
“Other non-print book revenue streams, such as journals, endowment interest revenue, and distribution line services revenue, offer publishers additional forms of protection during an economic downturn,” he points out.
“If your journal revenue comes primarily from bundled journal subscriptions, that’s even more protection from libraries deselecting or unsubscribing from a single journal,” Maikowski continues.
Temple University Press started to see a negative turn in sales in November, possibly because that is return season for September course-adoption books, suggests Alex Holzman, director of the press and president of the Association of American University Presses (AAUP).
“It also came at the same time that Borders had the strategy of reducing its inventory by 19 percent, and the recession had hit enough for stores to order conservatively for the holidays,” he adds.