Speaker: Doug Armato, the ghost of university presses past, University of Minnesota Press
The first book published at a university was in 1836 at Harvard. The AAUP began in 1928 when UP directors met in NYC to talk about marketing and sales for their books. Arguably, UP have been in some form of crisis since the 1970s, between the serials crisis and the current ebook crisis.
Libraries now account for only 20-25% of UP sales, with more than half of the sales coming from retail sources. UP worry about the library budget ecology and university funding as a whole.
“Books possessed of such little popular appeal but at the same time such real importance” from a 1937 publication called Some Presses You will Be Glad to Know About. Armato says, “A monograph is a scholarly book that fails to sell.”
Libraries complain that their students don’t read monographs. University Presses complain that libraries don’t buy monographs. And some may wonder why authors write them in the first place. UP rely on libraries to buy the books they publish for mission, not to recover the cost of production by being popular enough to be sold in the retail market.
Armato sees the lack of library concern over the University of Missouri Press potential closure and the UP role in the Georgia State case as bellwethers of the devolving relationship between the two, and we should be concerned.
But, there is hope. The evolving relationships with Project Muse and JSTOR to incorporate UP monographs is a sign of new life. UP have evolved, but they need to evolve much faster. UP press publications need better technology that incorporates the manual hyperlinks of footnotes and references into a highly linked database. A policy for copyright that favors authors over publishers is necessary.
Speaker: Alison Mudditt, ghost of university presses present, University of California Press
[Zoned out when it became clear this would be another dense essay lecture with very little interesting/innovative content, rather than what I’d consider to be a keynote. Maybe it’s an age thing? I just don’t have the attention span for a lecture anymore, and I certainly don’t expect one at a library conference. As William Gunn from Mendeley tweeted, “To hear people read speeches and not ask questions, that’s why we’re all in the same room.”]