Sunday, September 6, 2009

Can University Presses survive this recession?

My local newspaper of choice recently printed an AP article about the possible demise of Louisiana State University Press. Seems in an era where universities are being squeezed of funding by their states, one likely victim will be the University Press.

Chancellor Michael Martin doesn't question the prestige the Louisiana State University Press brings to his school, with Pulitzer Prize-winning fiction and poetry, tomes on Southern history and culture and other noted works to its credit.

What it doesn't bring in is revenue, and, like cash-strapped colleges across the country, LSU is getting tired of propping up its press.

The school has said the 74-year-old original publisher of "A Confederacy of Dunces" doesn't generate enough money to independently function.
Fiction International understands the problem, which is why we began a drive to increase revenue. We applied a few basic accounting techniques to get expenses in line, then started (and continue) looking for subscribers. We created an online presence (including this blog) and went looking for past, present, and future contributors and avid readers.

The result is a journal that is - for now - making enough money to cover our publishing costs. A journal that is - for now - safe from the university's budget ax.

Who will be hurt most by this latest cost-cutting move by universities are the contributors, most of whom teach and need the publishing credit to retain their jobs. There are few markets for short fiction and poetry, and most are affiliated with a University, so losing fiction and poetry journals will be a severe blow.

If a university wants to save their publications, they need to find within their department an administrator who knows both literature and business. Imagine the revenue LSU Press would have if it had - for example - the publishing revenue from A Confederacy of Dunces when it was hot, instead of well after its money-generating days were over. (LSU Press quietly resumed publication of the Larg-Print version, while Penguin Classics publishes the version assigned by literature classes.)

So could LSU Press or any other university press make enough changes in their way of thinking about literature and the marketplace to increase their revenue enough to survive the recession? Yes they can.

1 comment:

jaffeantijaffe said...

Proportionate to universities joining the electronic mania, removing books from their libraries in favor of technology, they will naturally dishonor hard copy literary publications, no matter the status.