Understanding the University Press Segment: Q&A with Paula Barker Duffy, Director, University of Chicago Press
The University of Chicago Press is the largest university press in the United States, according to the press’s director, Paula Barker Duffy. Founded in 1891, it is one of the oldest, continuously operating university presses in the United States.
Book Business Extra spoke with Duffy about the University of Chicago Press’ areas of expertise, being a self-sustaining press, its biggest challenges and more.
EXTRA: The University of Chicago Press claims to be largest university press in the U.S. How is this defined, what makes you the largest?
DUFFY: The University of Chicago Press publishes both books (approximately 280 titles in 2007) and journals (more than 40) and operates a distribution facility that serves the warehouse and fulfillment needs of 55 presses. Our revenue base is in 2007 is $60 million, and we employ [more than] 300 people. I believe we are the largest U.S.-based university press [based on these] several dimensions.
EXTRA: Do you believe it’s crucial for other university presses to develop their own areas of expertise?
DUFFY: Every university-based publisher seeks to develop core competencies and to establish a strong reputation in particular areas so that it can attract the best scholarship in specific disciplines or fields. On average, only 8 to 10 percent of the original titles we publish are written by Chicago faculty; my impression is that most university presses, like Chicago, work hard to publish notable books in areas for which the university itself is noted. This of course means reaching out to authors doing first-rate work at a variety of institutions. Our editors consult frequently with Chicago faculty members to identify authors and reviewers at other research universities.
Since 2001, Chicago [the press] has built successfully on the reputation of the ‘Chicago Manual of Style’ (first published in 1906) to develop a series of guides to writing, editing and publishing, [more than] 25 titles that are highly valued by members of both the publishing and academic communities. Over the past several years we have also supported the development of a strong list of regional titles of scholarly, professional and general interest to history buffs and to individuals interested in Chicago art and architecture.