University Presses and the Digital Universe
Selecting a special focus
Many across the industry believe that the key for university presses always has been to have a unique focus.
“Most university presses are known for specialized areas of expertise within the scholarly fields as well as usually having a niche or niches in literary, regional, reference or trade, nonfiction fields,” says AAUP’s communications manager, Brenna McLaughlin.
Maikowski believes that having a unique area of specialization, focus and expertise is imperative for university presses.
“Without some focus, the [title] list is problematic, and it’s difficult to build excellence in core fields, which in turn typically means that the best scholars working in a discipline will not bring their projects to your press. At NYUP we publish in nine core academic disciplines: cultural studies (including media, film and cyberstudies), law, American history, politics, criminology, anthropology, sociology, psychology and religion,” he says. “Many university presses have profit centers such as journals to help underwrite or defray losses [in] their book program. We have no journals program, so it’s critical that our book program stands on its own in terms of profitability and the overall bottom line of the press.”
Yale University Press is organized along five imprints: academic/scholarly; art; general interest trade; language textbooks; and reference.
“Each of the imprints has different challenges and strategies. The goal is to have each unit of the portfolio operating at full speed,” Donatich says.
And, while the university press segment faces many of the same hurdles that the overall publishing industry faces, it also has its different challenges and strategies that make it unique.
“… It is important to remember that while AAUP members work in the publishing industry, they are each more than just a publishing company,” McLaughlin says. “While university presses strive to operate efficiently, that is rarely directly part of their primary mission, which is to serve scholarship, society and their university through the works they publish.”