University Press Closures
Duquesne University Press, Northeastern University Press, Stanford University Press, Columbia University Press, and Dartmouth’s University Press, are examples of university presses that have been threatened or closed. Trends about the changing structure of university presses include collaboration with publishers to promote content and innovative distribution platforms.
I. University Press Scaling Back and Closures
Duquesne University Press
- After 90 years of operation, Duquesne University Press shut down in 2017, due to budget cuts.
- The press used to receive an annual subsidy of $300,000 from the university.
- According to the university officials, the press was running on a deficit budget. To sustain its operations, the university had to channel resources from other programs.
Northeastern University Press
- In 2004, the Northeastern University Press closed because of adverse economic conditions and negative profits. Within two years, the press losses climbed from $100,000 to $600,000.
- Some university officials were against the idea of closing the press, claiming the decision-making process was flawed.
- The report, as well as other reports publicly available, did not indicate how much subsidy the press used to receive from the university.
Stanford University Press
- In 2019, Stanford University announced that it would stop funding its press.
- Each year, the Stanford University Press generates about $5 million, while the university grants it $1.7 million.
- The community felt angered by the decision and responded with "critical letters, tweets, and petitions." Nevertheless, the press officials decided they would create a sustainable business model, which is self-funded.
Columbia University Press
- Columbia University decided to scale back its printing by shifting from a weekday print publication to a once-a-week newspaper — The Columbia Daily Spectator.
- The press also decided to have a daily online presence, along with the weekly publication.
- The changes aim to scale down the operations at the university press while focusing on digital print too.
Boise State University — Ahsahta Press
- In September 2019, Ahsahta Press of Boise State University shut its doors as its top editor, Janet Holmes, decided to shift focus to her writing. The press used to receive a $12,000 grant from Boise State every fiscal year.
- The national community of poets felt that the closure of Ahsahta Press as a blow to poetry publishing.
- According to officials, the university is not in a position to revive the press soon; however, efforts to reopen it will be considered whenever feasible.
University Press of Kentucky
- The University Press of Kentucky has suffered from budget cuts since 2018. The press used to receive a subsidy of $670,000 each year from the state general fund budget.
- Following concerns from the public regarding the funding cut, both Democrats and Republicans in the state are now advocating for press funding.
- The press remains optimistic that a new legislature can reinstate the funding. As of January 31, 2010, the University Press of Kentucky was looking to hire a new director to steer the press forward.
Northern Illinois University Press
- The Northern Illinois University Press, in DeKalb, is threatened with imminent closure for reasons, including budget shortfalls, its status as an “inessential” part of the institution, and inability to use fewer university resources along with difficulty in generating outside revenue.
- The press runs on a budget of about $750,000, of which the university pays over $300,000 (40%). The press publishes about 20–25 titles each year.
- Overall, the decisions to close the press is not yet finalized. Again, the university press was given time to argue why it should be kept and not shut down.
University Press of Kansas
- The University Press of Kansas has been undergoing financial turmoil and faces the risk of closure. In 2016, the state cut funding of $30.7 million from its 2017 higher education system budget. The University of Kansas lost over $7 million.
- In 2019, the university press, along with the University of Kansas Libraries, received two-year funding of $129,000.
- However, the university has not finalized its decision to close the press. Likewise, the press director — Charles Myers, was not yet sure about the final decision.
University of Wisconsin Press
- University of Wisconsin Press has suffered budget cuts that have threatened its closure. The press runs on a budget of $3.6 million, and the state funds 10% of that budget; however, during the 2015-17 fiscal year, the state cut that funding by 2%.
- Dennis Lloyd, director of the press, claims that, while the university's officials once contemplated whether to keep or shut the press, he received assurance that the university would commit to funding the press.
- The press earns about $1.5 million in revenues and publishes approximately 14 journals and 50 titles each year. It also hired a business manager to help strategize more effectively on generating sales revenues and cutting costs.
University of Akron Press
- In 2015, the University of Akron Press closed following the trimming of millions in expenses by the university.
- Over 161 workers at the university lost jobs following the closure, which was part of the university's efforts to cut down its budget by $40 million.
- Some officials felt angered by the move and accused the university of considering budget cuts over brains. Unfortunately, the report, along with public records, do not indicate how much subsidy the press used to receive.
Oxford University Press
- In 2009, the Oxford University Press laid off many employees as part of its budget-cutting initiative. About 60 employees lost their positions nationally.
- Officials and the public felt angered by the actions, but the university insisted that such a thing would never occur again.
- The Oxford University Press is profitable as it generates an estimated annual profit of £88.2 million (2018).
Dartmouth’s University Press
- Following the closure of the University Press of New England (UPNE), Dartmouth’s University Press had to shut down, too, because it depended on the services of the UPNE.
- The closure affected 20 jobs, and the press had become unsustainable. The university press stated it was taking a step back to assess the press and any new infrastructure or partnership it might consider in the future.
- Overall, officials and experts expressed concerns following the closure of the UPNE. Dartmouth University Press was the last to withdraw from UPNE.
II. Trends About the Changing Structure of University Presses
University presses face several challenges, including declining budgetary allocations to lack of effective promotions for their published works. In this regard, the university press landscape is changing fast to counter challenges such as reduced funding, and how to promote content like marketers.
Collaboration with Publishers
- In the previous model, most universities used to publish for themselves; however, university presses are shifting to collaborating with publishers to promote content.
- The reason for the shift is that many university presses lack guidelines for promoting content. Moreover, existing solutions include subscription-based journals like SAGE and Elsevier, which provide a few tips on effective promotion approaches.
- Examples of universities partaking the trend include Biola University, which partnered with SAGE in 2018 to publish three theology journals. The publisher undertook the responsibility of developing, promoting, and disseminating the journal's content to a global audience.
- Open-Access (OA) Monographs are on the rise throughout North America. In 2017, the Association of American University Presses estimated that 18 of 61 members who reported, out of a total of 140 university presses, had published new OA books.
- The drive behind the surge in OA books stems from the idea that research libraries purchase most monographs and books published by university presses; therefore, limiting access to few who subscribe or buy the books.
- Another reason is that existing monographs are either outdated or out-of-print works. There is also a motive by several organizations to create programs that enable free access to scholarly works.
- Athabasca University Press, Concordia University Press, University of Cincinnati Press, and University of Michigan Press are examples of presses publishing more OA books.
Innovative Distribution Platforms
- University presses are finding creative ways to sell content directly to libraries using proprietary distribution platforms.
- This shift is because most universities lacked mechanisms to sell directly to institutions and had to use third-party platforms. Therefore, their platforms would also help eliminate the need to rely on services offered by third-party acquisition platforms like EBSCO, JSTOR, Project Muse, ProQuest, and OverDrive.
- MIT Press and the University of Michigan Press are among the most recent university presses to launch innovative platforms for content distribution. MIT Press platform is called MIT Press Direct and is poised to give the press greater flexibility in publishing.
- The platforms will enable these universities to set their terms regarding their content, how it is used, or sold. Other universities leaning into this trend include Duke University in North Carolina and Cambridge and Oxford Universities in the UK.
Librarians as the New Scholarly Research “Partners"
- Librarians are no longer known for roles like locating sources or books in the library to facilitate research; they are now recognized as scholarly research partners.
- This shift is a result of the resemblance of the activities of the library and the press. Importantly, the relationship is further enhanced by the initiatives in libraries focusing on "scholarly communications and repositories."
- University presses utilize libraries in many ways, including finding early release study, hosting workshops on publishing, locating peer feedback, etc. Such roles are proving a higher affinity exists between the operations of libraries and university presses.
- An example of university partaking this trend is the Cornell University Libraries, which also hosts arXiv (open-access repository of digital content). Research findings show that 20% of scholars start research by visiting the website of a library before checking that of a scholarly database.
Extensive searches through academic associations, scholarly databases, university press releases, educational blogs, and renowned newspaper publishers have revealed twelve examples of university presses facing closure, along with four trends about the changing structure of university presses. The findings include examples of university presses that have closed, those that have suffered financial cuts, and those threatened with closure. We also conducted more research to identify the reasons for the university press closures or threats and the reasons driving the trends behind university press changing structures.
Existing research does not indicate whether university presses have altered their organizational structures to change who reports to whom. Current trends on this subject revolve around the shifting operational structure of university presses, especially following the continued financial cuts they face. The trends identified are repeated across multiple resources, feature expert input from bodies such as the Association of American Presses, along with scholarly published surveys. Overall, the trends reflect the most recent happenings within the academic landscape, specifically university presses.