Pressing Matters Face the University Press Market
Fred Woodward, director of the University Press of Kansas, says the business model for e-books also feels uncomfortable when it comes to the bottom line.
“E-books made around $12 million to $14 million in the last year,” he says. “That’s just a drop in the bucket. Publishers have actually lost a lot of money in trying to stay ahead of the curve of electronic publishing.”
Print Costs May Force Changes
Publishers who continue in print, however, are facing what many feel is a paper crisis due to energy costs.
“The paper cost is part of why you need to change the focus to selling a single book twice as much as opposed to two books half as much,” says Nelson, suggesting that publishers need to be even more selective about what they are publishing. “We just have to raise the standards more than in the past, which is a good idea anyway.”
In fact, Douglas Armato, director of the University of Minnesota Press, has seen paper costs rise to the 20-percent range, translating into a loss of $1 on the list price of a standard book.
“For the sake of profitability, that could force us to do more scholar books in paperback as opposed to just hardcover,” he says.
Rising manufacturing costs, however, aren’t the only challenge university presses face. Phil Pochoda, director of the University of Michigan Press, increasingly sees his own titles coming back to haunt him in the form of used books.
“Current estimates are that 40 percent of courses allow for [students to utilize] used [books]. College bookstores’ participation [in used-book sales] has made it affect our profits in the last two to three years.”
Pochoda, whose press handles 165 titles a year, says another challenge is that the audience is rapidly changing.