Archive for Sunday, August 5, 2012

University Press rolls with the changes in publishing world

August 5, 2012


As university presses face increasing scrutiny across the country, the University Press of Kansas’ leadership is focusing on creating new ways to stay relevant in a changing publishing world.

The situation in Kansas is different from the one in neighboring Missouri, where the press faced closure before an uproar from faculty and others kept its doors open.

“We’re solid,” said Fred Woodward, who has served as the University Press director since 1981. “We’ve got strong support, and the press is in good financial shape.”

The press is housed at KU, but serves each of the state’s universities.

Each of the six state universities contributes to the press, said Vanessa Lamoreaux, associate director of communications for the Kansas Board of Regents.

KU’s annual contribution is $130,203; Kansas State contributes $93,479; and Wichita State contributes $60,094. Pittsburg State, Fort Hays State and Emporia State each contribute $16,693.

Those subsidies are important, Woodward said.

“Almost every university press lives up to its nonprofit status,” he said.

University presses primarily publish books from academics across the country that commercial presses likely would pass up. Faculty members often rally behind university presses because they are often the only outlets for their work in a publish-or-perish world.

“If you believe in a research university, then it’s hard not to believe in the dissemination of that research,” Woodward said.

Woodward reports to the systemwide Council of Chief Academic Officers, whose membership includes provosts and other top academic officers from the state’s universities.

KU Provost Jeff Vitter is on the council, and he praised the press for performing at levels above its peers with lower revenue sources. He also affirmed the press’s important role for the state’s universities.

“We are working with Fred and the press to try and position our university press for long-term success,” Vitter said.

Instead of his usual annual report to the council, Woodward is coming up with a multi-year strategic plan for the press.

The press slightly increased its sales during the last fiscal year, but the specifics of the plan for the future are still being worked out, Woodward said.

“Obviously, our press has been slow to adopt e-books,” Woodward said.

Peer presses that are further along in the development of e-books are seeing more revenue in that area, he said, though those presses aren't generating greater total sales than Kansas' press. Kansas’ press elected not to spend as much money upfront on e-books and instead tried to learn from others’ successes and mistakes.

Woodward said he still didn’t have a good answer for the problems that are facing publishers today as more consumers flock to electronic media.

If publishers do eventually fail, Woodward said they would leave an unfilled void for researchers.

“There’s going to have be some other system that somehow verifies the quality of the scholarship,” he said.


verity 5 years, 8 months ago

I have a great deal of respect for the quality of work put out by the University Press and sincerely hope it continues to remain viable. It not only fills a niche not covered by others, nonprofit or for profit, but it publishes many books for a general audience, especially about Kansas. The article, unfortunately, completely ignores this aspect. The University Press definitely is not only involved in esoteric faculty research books. Please look at their website to get a better idea of what they do publish.

Kansas would certainly lose a great deal if the Press were lost. However, the whole field of publishing and printing has changed drastically in the past several decades and is changing faster all the time. They must keep up with these changes.

voevoda 5 years, 8 months ago

Right, verity, on every point. I'll add another: some faculty research that seems "esoteric" to the general public is vitally important to certain professions.

Cant_have_it_both_ways 5 years, 8 months ago

Or they could send the material out to be printed, thus boosting the economy and the tax base.

verity 5 years, 8 months ago

The University Press does send it's material out to be printed. It is a publisher, not a printer.

orbiter 5 years, 8 months ago

Ah, the always uninformed C_h_I_b_w makes another ignorant comment. You ever going to be even superficially informed about the stories you comment on, or are you a satirical persona mocking the reactionary right wing?

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