From the Editorial Director: University Presses Face the Future
On Nov. 11, the Association of American University Presses kicks off the first University Press Week, an event designed to celebrate the literary and cultural achievements of university presses across the country (more at aaupnet.org). As with all publishers, university presses have been affected by digitalization and changes in the retail environment. Book Business asked a selection of directors of university presses the question: What do you feel is the best way to steer a university press successfully into the future in this age of rapid technological change?
Director, University of California Press
In a nutshell, we have to reevaluate how and where we add value in a digital world. Specifically, we need to:
● Embrace and understand the technology, as well as how it is changing the way we all work. For example, at UC Press we're seeking to better understand the impact of the dramatic rise in collaborative and digital research and how this is integrated into other systems and workflows.
● To compete successfully with both commercial publishers and the technology giants, we need to build strategic partnerships and alliances within the academy and beyond.
Leila W. Salisbury
Director, University Press of Mississippi
We can't warehouse books we won't sell and expect to stay in the black. Decisions made about printing options and quantities options need to be considered from a variety of perspectives—sales channels, short- and long-term demand, makeup of the book, and the overall financial prospects for a title. Through considered use of short-run, POD and vendor automatic restocking plans, we reduced our production budget by 25 percent and net inventory as a percentage of sales by 9 points over three years. We then put the money we saved into digital conversions and a DAM system.
Director, University Press of Colorado
Plug yourself in and lead by example. Most of us do not have a crystal ball in our office, and dealing with the current pace of technological change involves a constant balancing act of proceeding with caution and throwing caution to the wind. This introduces plenty of change and subsequent confusion about new systems and software. This is only exacerbated by top-down directives. As director, you must familiarize yourself with the technology or digital initiatives you are engaging with and provide leadership, selling the change and the new process or technology to the staff (instead of foisting it on IT).