Priorities for a Press

Nebraska shrinks its staff and its office to avoid cutting the number of books that it publishes.
February 8, 2005

Trends in the publishing industry haven't been kind to university presses, especially smaller ones.

The University of Nebraska Press last week announced a series of changes -- including layoffs -- designed to prevent it from reaching the crisis points that have forced other presses to cut back or refocus their book lists.

"We were moving toward being in the red," said Gary Dunham, director of the press. "We're like many university presses in that we've been facing industrywide financial challenges, with libraries buying fewer books."

Dunham said, "We were nervous and the university was nervous" about the trends. The university provides between 3 to 4 percent of the press's $7 million budget.

Last week the press eliminated the jobs of six people -- all in marketing and business operations. Their duties will be assigned to others at the press. While Dunham called the layoffs "terribly unfortunate," he said he was pleased that no editors lost positions and that the number of books published would not decline.

The layoffs will end up saving the press several hundred thousand dollars a year, and another $100,000 will be saved by moving to smaller offices.

Nebraska publishes around 100 scholarly books a year (in addition to a reprint series) and is known for its work on Native Americans, the history of the West, and French colonial studies.

Not only will those areas be preserved, Dunham said, but the press plans to expand its work in science fiction translations and scholarship and in the history of space flight.

"We didn't want to go the route of other presses that cut their publishing program or went to commercial books rather than scholarly books to survive," Dunham said.


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