November 11–17 marks University Press Week, established by President Jimmy Carter in 1978. The goal of this celebration is to recognize the impact of university presses on the academic community and our overall culture.
University Presses play an important role in American and international intellectual life because they tend to publish works on highly niche topics that for-profit publishers ignore or marginalize. Many of these works are the result of doctoral students’ dissertations.
The Association of American University Presses includes 133 members and is celebrating its 75th anniversary. Member presses are not just limited to the United States – several are located in Canada, Asia, Europe, and the Caribbean.
Over 12,000 works per year are published by AAUP member presses. The organization has put together a nice gallery called Fine Print (and Digital!) to showcase different works by the presses.
On the homefront, The University of Tennessee Press (founded in 1940) is also a member of the AAUP. Its focus includes African American studies, Appalachian studies, material culture, literary criticism and the regional concerns.
As the value university presses cannot be understated, it’s important we take note of difficulties faced fulfilling their ongoing missions. In a recent example, the University of Missouri System decided to cut a subsidy last May for the University of Missouri Press, which would have effectively closed it. In early October, the administration did an about-face by rehiring the former editor after a large outcry from supporters of the press.
Does all this talk of university presses whet your appetite? Want to know where to start? A great place to find lots of scholarly press content is Project MUSE. UTC Library has access to their 2011 and 2012 Complete eBook collections as well as their Standard journal collection. The eBooks are downloadable at the chapter level in PDF format and can be read on a variety of devices.
We appreciate the pivotal raison d’être of university presses in the world of scholarship.