- University Presses 2008:A Snapshot in Time
As those familiar with Choice know, we devote various issues throughout our volume year to particular themes. For many years the May theme has been 'university press publishing,' and over those many years the features that make up this thematic concentration have varied. Always included has been our annual press-by-press list of titles the individual presses themselves deem particularly valuable to undergraduates. Accordingly, following the forum, you will find 'Significant University Press Titles for Undergraduates, 2007–2008,' which this year includes entries from a record eighty-four presses.
The other part of the university press feature has been narrative – in recent years a 'forum' in which directors of a handful presses offer their thoughts about their particular press or about university press publishing in general. The subtitle of this year's forum (which follows immediately) – 'From the Prairie to the Pacific Rim' – reflects the eclectic nature of the contributions: we make no effort to guide the contributors as to content, since we believe that a true pot luck best reflects what is on the tables (to wrest the most out of the food metaphor) of presses of various sizes and from various parts of North America. Every year we seek out new voices, and we hope eventually to hear from most, if not all, university presses in this forum.
Among the new voices we sought out this year was Phil Pochoda's. Director of University of Michigan Press, Phil – like most university press directors – had been thinking a lot about matters digital. When he put his fingers to the keyboard – in response to our invitation – the result was a really meaty feature article that, we believe, deserves a broad audience. Accordingly, you will find herein Phil's piece, 'The Future of Scholarly Communication: On the Other Side of the Digital Tipping Point.'
As always, we invite reader feedback on these features. E-mail us! Write to us! We welcome your thoughts on these matters or any others related to the work we do at Choice.
- University of Iowa Press
I'm one of those 'I like to read' people who fell into publishing through a happy accident when I was just out of college. Clueless about publishers and presses, I heard about proofreading at the venerable University of Texas Press, took a test, started freelancing, and was lucky enough to be offered a full-time job after a year. Now after almost forty years in the business, first at University of Texas Press and now at the younger and smaller University of Iowa Press, I am still happy to be working in the collegial world of university press publishing.
I am incredibly fortunate to be at Iowa, working with six highly professional and warm-hearted colleagues. We think of ourselves as 'The Little Press on the Prairie,' and though this may sound saccharine the tag in fact suits our efficient, companionable operation to a tee. Though the predictable wolves (higher costs and lower sales) nip at the heels of all publishers, our situation is close to ideal: we have an interesting, nicely focused list; supportive administrators who understand the value of scholarly publishing and an enthusiastic advisory board; a historic stone building with wood floors and warmly coloured walls; strong partners in the staff at Iowa City's renowned Prairie Lights Books; and sales that are currently robust enough to keep those wolves from our door.
This ideal situation could go downhill in an instant, of course. Past years have been tough at Iowa, and, no doubt about it, we will have tough times in the years to come. Anxiety about the future of scholarly publishing is ever present, but whether we are oblivious, anxious, or proactive, we cannot know what the future will look like. All we can do is be as alert as possible, digitize and archive all our books, try to manage our authors' rights intelligently, and pay close attention to the technical marvels being wrought by the larger players.
As director of a seven-member team, each of whom but one is an entire 'department,' I have to be hands on...