How University Presses Are Surviving the Economic Downturn

In the latest issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education, Jennifer Howard examines how university presses are faring in the grim economic atmosphere—things are not so good but they’re not so bad either. While some presses have had layoffs and dramatic declines in sales, others have only seen slight drops in their sale figures. Moreover, several publishers seem to be finding ways to adapt to changing circumstances without having to cut titles from their lists. Needless to say, everyone is waiting to see how things will play out but judging from the article, no one seems to think it is wise to panic.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Talk to individual press directors and sales managers, however, and it becomes clear that the crisis does not look and feel the same for everyone. Some presses have felt a hard pinch. Several directors use euphemisms like “disappointing” to describe sales figures that are worse than they will acknowledge in public. But others are having decent, even good years, as tightly focused or broadly appealing lists keep them in the black. The best news for authors: So far no press has announced plans to cut back on the number of books it publishes.

Almost all presses, however, are holding their breath about 2009. “I think everybody’s waiting to see how this plays out,” said Peter J. Givler, executive director of the university-press association. In interviews with press personnel, the phrase heard most often was “waiting for the other shoe to drop.”

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