Market Focus: University Presses Press on Through Recession
Ever the optimist, he says that the silver lining of current struggles is that returns in the spring could be lower, “because there just isn’t anything out there.”
University presses may incur the brunt of the recession in the coming year, when most university libraries’ funding will decrease and students will have less money, meaning both parties won’t be able to afford books—at least not brand-new ones.
In fact, says Holzman, of more concern than the recession is the fact that course-adoption book sales may be on the decline long-term. “Students are finding ways to share books or do without books,” he says.
“I have a fear that there might be more returned books after each traditional cycle,” says Maikowski. “April and May are often high months for college store returns; so should we be projecting for this?”
“Anybody who has a reliance on academic and public libraries is casting a wary eye on the summer, when they’ll make their budgets, and the news is so unrelentingly grim,” says Niko Pfund, vice president and publisher of academic and trade books for Oxford University Press.
To help avoid these financial losses, presses are printing more on-demand, something that Oxford University Press started doing in 2003.
“We don’t want to print too many copies and be awash in returns,” says Pfund. “We decided to take a more conservative approach.
“Publishing would not have survived and thrived as it has in the past 10 years if we didn’t have print-on-demand [POD]or online book selling,” he says. “If we hadn’t done that, we’d be in dire straits.”
Between 5,000 and 6,000 of Oxford’s titles are printed on-demand, which is a “pretty hefty” percentage of its total list, Pfund adds.
“[POD] is one of those absolute win-win situations. It helps us disseminate information; it allows us to help authors never be unavailable; and it helps us financially,” he says.