AAUP Report: Among Calls for Collaboration, a Plea to Reinvent University Presses

Sarah Gold, Publishers Weekly — Library Journal, 6/25/2009


Collaboration and cooperation were the bywords at this year’s annual meeting of the Association of American University Presses in Philadelphia, June 18-21, while a call for radical change of a “broken” business model came from the AAUP’s outgoing president, Alex Holzman, who urged presses to embrace a comprehensive e-book publishing program.

Numerous sessions with titles such as “Library-Press Cooperation,” “University and Press Collaborations” and “The Mellon Collaborative Publishing Grants: Reports from the Presses,” underscored Holzman’s point that today’s university press business model—plagued by declining monograph sales, heavy returns, and declining subsidies from parent institutions—is in need of serious revisions. Such revisions could involve closer ties with other academic departments and institutes within the parent institution.

As Nathan MacBrien, publications director for the University of California International and Area Studies, put it, at a time when every academic department, including university presses, must justify its existence, “collaborations make for institutional embeddedness” that can help guarantee a press’s future.

Speakers also addressed other forms of cooperation: allying with campus libraries (to which some presses are already institutionally joined at the hip) and working with other university presses with complementary strengths or overlapping interests to accomplish complex projects and achieve cost savings.

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