University Presses and the Digital Universe
The Association of American University Presses (AAUP)—an organization of nonprofit publishers whose members strive to advance scholarship through their offerings—believes that the university press segment’s fundamental mission has not changed since America’s oldest university press, The Johns Hopkins University Press, was founded in 1878. However, the landscape in which its members operate has changed greatly, and the forecast calls for additional change in the future. As throughout the rest of the publishing industry, driving this change are advances in digital technologies.
A varying segment
According to Steve Maikowski, director of NYU Press, the university press world is divided into four major sales groups or size categories: the small presses (sales of less than $1.5 million per year); the small-medium presses ($1.5 million to $3 million per year); the large-medium presses ($3 million to $6 million per year); and the large presses ($5 million to $110 million per year).
“There are about a dozen presses in the large category, and most operate with no subsidy from [their] parent institutions. They are also a bit unique in that they often have significant endowments to draw from to cover any losses in particularly bad years,” Maikowski says. “At the other end of the spectrum, almost all of the [small] presses operate with significant subsidies from their parent institutions.”
Yale University Press, for example, is funded through an endowment administered by the university, according to John Donatich, the press’s director.
“[The endowment’s] sources [have] come mostly from private donors over the last century,” he says. “On the other hand, we are self-sufficient outside the application of interest of the endowment income.”
Maikowski says while financial setups may vary, what most of these presses share is the fact that the subsidies they may have enjoyed in the past from their parent institutions are under pressure of being reduced in the future.