Understanding the University Press Segment: Q&A with Paula Barker Duffy, Director, University of Chicago Press
EXTRA: It has been said that most university presses operate at a loss and are subsidized by their parent universities. Do you believe this is still true today?
DUFFY: The University of Chicago Press is one of the few university presses that is self-sustaining.
At all university presses, however, the regular publication of scholarly monographs requires subsidy; a number of presses have developed successful lines of books (especially regional and reference) to help subsidize the publication of monographs. Subsidy from a host institution can take many forms: outright pledges of funds to cover operating deficits, rent, benefits, etc.
Departmental grants in the range of $3,000 to $10,000 from the author’s own institution are increasingly available to help defray the cost of publication or, in the case of illustrated science or art history, to help cover the cost of permissions to reproduce illustrations.
… A number of university presses that have undertaken development (e.g., fund-raising) efforts in recent years. Such efforts, when undertaken in coordination with the central development office at a university, can add to the image and reputation of a press and can bring increased public recognition of its publications.
EXTRA: What major challenges are you currently facing?
DUFFY: We face challenges in all segments of our publishing and distribution activity.
Investment in new technologies and systems (and the staff to administer IT departments and electronic initiatives) is an ongoing challenge in both journals and books. The Open Access movement presents both challenges and opportunities for university presses engaged in journals publishing.
EXTRA: The National Association of College Stores uses a figure that 64 percent of students are not buying all their required course material. How does this affect the university press segment and how is The University of Chicago Press trying to combat this?
DUFFY: Having good systems in place to deliver the required course content online and at a reasonable cost, and the ability to track use of this content so that authors are informed of the ‘classroom use’ of their work and compensated appropriately is a major challenge for all members of the scholarly community. Foundations and organizations like The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Ithaka Harbors Inc. and the Copyright Clearance Center are involved in studying the issue, and managers of the Chicago-based BiblioVault repository of electronic monographs are working to come up with solutions to better serve the needs of libraries and scholars. There is much greater dialogue in recent years between university presses and members of the library community, and I believe there will be innovative solutions that will allow scholars to better track the use of their published work as it goes online. Publishers within and supported by the academy make important contributions to the discussion.