As we noted here on Tuesday, this week the Association of American University Presses has been celebrating the second annual University Press Week, an event driven by a shared desire to remind the public of the critical role played by AAUP member presses in the development and dissemination of new ideas and new ways of understanding our world. Along with that public-facing campaign, though, the week is also a time for university presses to learn from one another, and the UP Week Blog Tour (ably organized by Indiana University Press) amounts to a veritable master class on the state of academic publishing. Here, then, is some of what we learned this week.
The Johns Hopkins University Press used the occasion to detail the extent of their global reach, and, in particular, of Project MUSE. Two years shy of its 20th birthday, MUSE now sees just 42% of subscriptions and purchases originating in North America. MUSE journals are accessible in 80 countries worldwide, with pricing tiered according to World Bank World Development Indicators in recognition of the unique needs of libraries in economically disadvantaged countries. At JHUP they also work to mitigate the intermittent electricity, aging technology, and low-bandwidth internet often found in developing and transitional nations by maintaining a website that is as streamlined and compatible as it can feasibly be.
Further to international reach, Princeton University Press Director Peter Dougherty wrote of the importance of translation in the dissemination of scholarship, and of the organized chaos of the Frankfurt Book Fair, international hub for the buying and selling of foreign rights. For Dougherty, that week of meetings each fall is a chance to take stock of PUP’s most recent offerings:
A week at a rights table in Frankfurt gives a publisher a glimpse into its soul. Just how good are we? Are certain lists as strong as we think they are? Are we current or are we yesterday’s news? Do our lists have the three Ds–depth, dimension, and durability–or are we publishing mere ephemera? The five-day stress test in front of the world’s hard-bitten foreign publishers answers those questions, sometimes painfully, other times reassuringly.
Regional publishing is not a significant element of what we do here at HUP, so it was a particular treat this week to read a collection of posts from presses dedicated to serving specific areas of the country. Especially notable were the University Press of Kentucky’s GIF-tastic tour of their bluegrass state bona fides and the University of Nebraska Press’s reflection on how a focus on “an individual chunk of the globe” can prompt new understandings of the world at large.
From Wilfrid Laurier University Press we learned of the important role that an individual publishing house can play in helping to establish new fields of inquiry, as WLUP has done with their own Environmental Humanities series:
The Environmental Humanities book series is one of few existing gathering points for environmental humanities scholarship in Canada and internationally. From the outset, the series has emphasized the value of bringing together scholars and research from across the environmental humanities to pursue a threefold mandate: (a) to articulate the value and contribution of humanities research and modes of thought and practice to environmental debate; (b) to contribute to the development of humanities research questions, methods, and theories from environmental perspectives; and (c) to bring together research from across the environmental humanities in one place to facilitate exchange and cross-disciplinary discussion on common theoretical and critical issues.
The University of Minnesota Press used their stop on the tour to introduce a new venture of their own, an exciting new series they’re calling Forerunners. The idea is to develop a short-form publishing program for the informal commentary often referred to as “gray literature.” Here’s UMP Associate Editor Danielle Kasprzak:
Some of the most innovative, interesting, and risky ideas I’ve seen circulating on Twitter, Facebook, and the blogosphere are not being represented in traditional scholarly publishing. I work in scholarly publishing; I’m fully aware of how long it can take to get ideas out there. Books take a long time to write and to publish. Journal articles and essays in edited collections are shorter, but we all know how long it can take those to come out. The ideas being explored in nontraditional formats may not lend themselves to these more traditional publishing models anyway.
That’s where Forerunners comes in. We’re not looking to republish the introduction to a book we published seven years ago in hopes of generating interest in our backlist—we’re looking to advance current conversations in scholarly publishing. Our goal is to maintain some of the informality and innovation of the ephemeral nature of things like Twitter conversations, Facebook posts, blog posts, and even conference plenaries. But, to make sure others can get involved in the conversation, too.
In contrast to speedy gray lit, from Duke University Press we got a great meditation on “the slow future of scholarly publishing,” a heartening reminder that technology will keep speeding up, but scholarly production will always take time, and in the end the production’s what we’re here for. Even still, that deliberate pace means these processes are costly, and in reminding us of the hurdles to access that those costs can pose, Duke’s post dovetails nicely with what we heard from Hopkins on Project MUSE.
Finally, everyone in the AAUP community was surely cheered to see the University Press Week post from the University of Missouri Press. Eighteen months removed from the announcement of an administration plan effectively to shutter the press as we knew it, and barely a year from the reprieve earned by outcry, UMP welcomes David Rosenbaum, their first permanent Director in over five years.