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Fredric Nachbaur on University Press Week

This week (11-17 November) is University Press Week from the American Association of University Presses (AAUP), now celebrating their 75th anniversary. It salutes the extraordinary work of university presses and their many contributions to culture, the academy, and society. To mark University Press Week, we’re sharing commentary from around academic publishing.

By Fredric Nachbaur


As I was preparing to write my post for University Press Week post-Hurricane Sandy, I reflected on how university presses have bonded together in the past during times of tragedy to help us all understand what is happening at and in the moment and how we can try to move forward. The Association for American University Presses (AAUP) created “Books for Understanding” soon after 9/11 to bring the latest and most valuable scholarship to readers in an easy-to-find and easy-to-use place. The AAUP instantly became a resource for people who wanted to know more and to find it from reliable sources — university presses, the pillars of knowledge. The day after Hurricane Sandy hit, a reporter from the Huffington Post contacted me about a Fordham author who had written a history of the NYC subways; she wanted to interview him about the flooding of the tunnels and the mass transit shutdown. It is a prime example of how the media turns to university presses for expertise during times of crisis.

We emphasize scholarship by being witnesses to global events, detectives for finding the best authors, and sharers of critical information that has been researched and vetted. Combining efforts to make all of our books on a specific topic of current concern to citizens of the world is invaluable. There is already a list started for Hurricane Sandy. Thank you, AAUP!

I’d be remiss if I didn’t touch on digital books. While I see print books for the foreseeable future, I’m not in denial or oblivious to the fact that digital is a fast-growing segment of the book market in all areas from academic to trade and everything in between. Even art books can be seen on tablets. Fordham has established a tremendous number of initiatives these past few years. I don’t want to give a laundry list of partnerships but would like to touch upon University Press Scholarship Online (UPSO), which has helped us put our scholarly content in front of users hungry for digital versions.

We have learned that libraries want flexibility; they don’t want to be tied to a single platform. Libraries want full availability for all titles, access to all aggregators, fluid pricing models, minimal DRM, and simultaneous electronic and print editions.

Publishers should not choose just one platform on which to feature their books. They should have content on as many platforms as possible. Libraries will choose which source best suits their needs. They have been clear with their expectations. We as publishers need to figure out how best to meet their needs.

With a Fordham University Press-branded portal, Fordham Scholarship Online (FSO) has provided a wonderful opportunity for Fordham’s content to be made available in an XML environment that allows for profound discoverability and searchabilty. XML allows for more granular tagging and cross-referencing and is a more versatile format that is more “future proof” and far less cumbersome than PDF.

Fordham was able to reap the benefits of Oxford’s ten years of experience promoting its Oxford Scholarship Online (OSO) product to libraries and research institutions, its dedicated marketing team marketing UPSO exclusively, and its market share. Sixty percent of research libraries in the world are currently OSO subscribers. FSO launched in March 2011 as UPSO’s pilot site and was part of UPSO’s big launch in October 2011. I am extremely excited to be part of this well-established, extremely searchable, cross-referenced program. It clearly meets the needs and anticipates future needs of libraries and patrons. How much does that decrease my anxiety? A lot!

So as the AAUP turns 75 and university presses celebrate for a week, we can take a moment to congratulate ourselves on adapting to the evolving landscape by embracing new technologies while also continuing to provide information in traditional format that help us understand the ever-changing world around us. Here’s to another 75 years!

Fredric Nachbaur is Director of Fordham University Press. Fordham University Press, a member of the Association of American University Presses (AAUP) since 1938, was established in 1907 not only to represent and uphold the values and traditions of the University itself, but also to further those values and traditions through the dissemination of scholarly research and ideas. You can follow Fordham University Press on Twitter, like them on Facebook, watch their videos on YouTube, and read the “Fordham Impressions” blog.

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