Wednesday, June 17, 2009

US University Presses Face Tough Calls

US University Presses face difficult times with declining readership and tax revenue budgets forcing public and school libraries to buy fewer copies of university press publications.

Utah, Washington, Yale, New York have all claimed difficulties and cuts. Now they are joined by Louisiana State University Press where officials are considering cuts or even closure as they face state budget cuts of $40 million at the Baton Rouge campus alone. Chancellor Michael Martin claims that they allocated $500,000 of university money to the press in the last fiscal year, but that they spent $1.4 million!

If they digitise their program and its archive it will cost money. If they don’t digitise they face a growing market, which is cannibalising their sales and where they don’t compete. Should university presses be forming publishing consortiums which may offer economies of both scale and scope? Should they just cut back and if so what is the appropriate level to support them? Should they look for grants or sponsorships to publishing books in specific fields of research?

Whatever the answer, university press operations are no longer a given. LSU may believe that their value to the university is in its four Pulitzer-winning works, 240 other awards and in the 75 to 85 new titles it publishes each year. However, others may question any organisation that exceeds budget by 180%.

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