From the Editorial Director: University Presses Face the Future
On Nov. 11, the Association of American University Presses kicks off the first University Press Week, an event designed to celebrate the literary and cultural achievements of university presses across the country (more at aaupnet.org). As with all publishers, university presses have been affected by digitalization and changes in the retail environment. Book Business asked a selection of directors of university presses the question: What do you feel is the best way to steer a university press successfully into the future in this age of rapid technological change?
Director, University of California Press
In a nutshell, we have to reevaluate how and where we add value in a digital world. Specifically, we need to:
● Embrace and understand the technology, as well as how it is changing the way we all work. For example, at UC Press we're seeking to better understand the impact of the dramatic rise in collaborative and digital research and how this is integrated into other systems and workflows.
● To compete successfully with both commercial publishers and the technology giants, we need to build strategic partnerships and alliances within the academy and beyond.
Leila W. Salisbury
Director, University Press of Mississippi
We can't warehouse books we won't sell and expect to stay in the black. Decisions made about printing options and quantities options need to be considered from a variety of perspectives—sales channels, short- and long-term demand, makeup of the book, and the overall financial prospects for a title. Through considered use of short-run, POD and vendor automatic restocking plans, we reduced our production budget by 25 percent and net inventory as a percentage of sales by 9 points over three years. We then put the money we saved into digital conversions and a DAM system.
Director, University Press of Colorado
Plug yourself in and lead by example. Most of us do not have a crystal ball in our office, and dealing with the current pace of technological change involves a constant balancing act of proceeding with caution and throwing caution to the wind. This introduces plenty of change and subsequent confusion about new systems and software. This is only exacerbated by top-down directives. As director, you must familiarize yourself with the technology or digital initiatives you are engaging with and provide leadership, selling the change and the new process or technology to the staff (instead of foisting it on IT).
Director, University Press of Florida
I think we need to get back to the idea that we are full-service publishers, with the emphasis on "full." Think about other ways of getting revenue for your press. For instance, we have created a publications division. We serve 11 universities; we're a system-wide press. We've let … those universities know we can edit or print or do whatever they need. We've started marketing ourselves as a packager to the other universities. We've created a whole new line of revenue off of this service part. We looked at our skill set and said "who needs this and how can we monetize it?"
Director, University of Iowa Press
The old days of figuring something out and setting it and forgetting it are over. You need to constantly reevaluate workflow, how you're working with vendors, whom you want to work with, your editorial program, your marketing program, production and editing workflows. … It's not just a matter of: "Oh, we added this other layer on top of the print and now we can all bear down." We have to constantly be looking for new and bigger ways to make that digital layer more efficient.
Director, Princeton University Press
[W]e as publishers must remain acutely mindful of the enduring importance of content. The digital transition will be evolving for years to come… [b]ut we need to constantly remind ourselves that our publishing is only as good as the content we bring to these new and emerging markets. There are exciting intellectual developments reflected in our authors' scholarship, and we need to focus our efforts diligently on working with our authors to develop new books, series, journals, and other kinds of publications that will appeal to readers around the world and for years to come.