At a challenging time for the economics of scholarly publishing, two universities have announced the creation of their own university presses. The Webster University Press and the Lee University Press will both publish in cooperation with other entities. While the operations are small, the news of two new presses has been encouraging to others in academic publishing.
Laura Rein, dean of the University Library at Webster and editor of the new press there, said that the idea of a press has been discussed for years. What gave the idea a push was the realization that there are a growing number of presses interested in "co-publishing," sharing the finances of books. "So if we can do this in a way that does not put the university at risk financially and supports our mission, we'll try it," she said.
Part of the motivation was to showcase the work of Webster faculty members, but all books must be peer reviewed for approval and an appropriate publishing partner must be identified. Rein also said that submissions from scholars not affiliated with Webster were welcome.
The first book from the press is Encountering Florence, a mix of photography and essays by Susan Hacker Stang, a professor of electronic and photographic media at Webster. The book was co-published with an Italian press called Palombi Editori.
Lee University, meanwhile, this month announced the creation of a university press in collaboration with Pathway Press. Lee's president, Paul Conn, said that the goal for the press would be to publish three to six books a year on topics that relate to the work of faculty members, although all of the authors need not be Lee professors. He said a priority would be given to works that wouldn't have enough commercial interest to be published elsewhere, but that have scholarly significance. The first book, being released this month, is Answering the Call to Spirit, by Terry Cross, dean of Lee's School of Religion.
Sanford G. Thatcher, director of the Penn State University Press and president of the American Association of University Presses, said that the new presses continue a trend in which colleges starting or reviving presses do so with collaborations. While the new presses will emphasize their institutions, and will not have the range of many longstanding operations, Thatcher noted that many of today's well established presses started in the same way. In fact, the press association recently created a new membership category for new, small presses that don't mean the regular standards for membership.
Of the new presses, Thatcher said, "the more, the merrier."