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EDITORIAL RICOCHETS 1. The Editor's Plaint¡ In May 1978 I sent out invitations to editorialize to 52 university press directors and to 21 representatives of commercial publishers of reprint series. In ELT, XXIi 3 & k (1978), mailed in October of 1978, I printed the letters of invitation. As of this writing, I must report that the response has been very meager. I confess that this was not unexpected. Al though ELT has an international circulation of about 800 to 900, it is a specialized journal. It is certainly not Time or Playboy, nor College English or PMLA. Representatives of commercial reprint firms generally, although with two noteworthy exceptions, did not trouble even to acknowledg my invitation. A fair number of university press directors did ac knowledge my invitation, mainly to offer courteous regretst "I|m a one-man press operation," "We're understaffed," "I have no time, "I'm about to retire," "I'm moving to another position," and so on I am aware, of course, that discussions such as these I hope to provide space for are going on elsewhere - occasionally in Chronicle of Higher Education, densely in Scholarly Publishing! A Journal for Authors & Publishers, and, in a more specialized sense, in the newly established EN (i.e. Editor's News: A Publication of the Conference of Editors of Learned Journals). Books and manuals on how to get scholarly articles and books published are numerous. Quite useful is Scholars and Their Publishers, edited by Weldon A. Kefauver (NYi MLA, 1977). This pamphlet of 59pp. collects comment by directors, editors, and managers of university presses on scholarly standards, the economics of publishing, publishers' readers, contracts, methods of printing, and so on. These publications, ho ever, do not provide for a real exchange of ideas. They provide directives, dicta, and often useful advice. This column in ELT will remain open, insofar as space allows, to anyone wishing to comment on problems concerning reprints and scho larly publication. To make a start, I print the following comment mainly in the words of the writers representing two reprint publis ers. 2. Reprint Publishing! Reply 1¡ I appreciate the quandry which prompted your letter of 9 May and your invitation to respond to ce tain questions. As a publisher with an extensive backlist of book regularly used in Lit courses, I will respond to the topics you su gested. a) Can slow-selling titles be kept in print? Not for long under present conditions. The cut-off point of what is acceptable to a publishing company varies with the size of the firm and the sales history of the title. Your figure of 1,000 copies sold a year mak the book marginal. We have traditionally struggled to keep such titles in print by considering them as part of a whole subject gro when computing profitability. There comes a point, however, when even that approach cannot "underwrite" certain titles. If, howeve you would accept newspaper-type paper and if your bookstore would agree to a no-return policy on certain books, then we could probably keep a book in print which sold only 1,000 copies or less a year. b) Computer composition isn't really a saving when we are considering the reprinting of books. c) Your question about economics! Yes, shorter books, no exam copies, and cheaper advertising would help enormously. But, then, so would lower royalties to book editors and introducers, cheaper grade paper, reduction of the used book market, and no-return policy as stated above. d) What can a teacher do? A critical factor, not suggested in your list of topics, is that a large percentage of books for literature courses come back to the publisher as returns. If we could eliminate the returns and the used book market, our ability to keep books in print would improve dramatically. Our experience indicate that bookstores buy, for example, 150 copies of Moby Dick in January and that they return k$ of them in April (the crUelest month'.). From our evidence, we conclude that not all students buy all books for lit courses. Perhaps students buy cooperatively; perhaps they read the book on the reserve shelf in the library; perhaps they...


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