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IU Press strives to keep with times

POSTED AT 09:39 PM ON Sep. 5, 2012  (UPDATED AT 01:21 AM ON Sep. 6, 2012)

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History creaks in the old wooden floors of the IU Press, which has published academic
books for 62 years.

IU Press is part of a long-standing tradition of scholarly printing on the Bloomington campus, Director Janet Rabinowitch said, and an important aspect of academic
publishing worldwide.

Still, it hasn’t been without challenges.

After the 2008 recession, the press struggled to meet budget.

“We had a bad year because of the recession, and we budgeted a small loss the last two years,” Rabinowitch explained.

This fiscal year, IU Press came out on budget, she said, but that shift hasn’t come without changing how things are run.

Libraries, important clients of the press, buy less than they did 20 years ago.

“A lot is available online, so library selling is down,” Rabinowitch said. “It’s a hard time in publishing with all the transition to e-books, buying things online and even reading things online for free, rather than reading books.”

These concerns have been felt throughout campus.

“The landscape of academic publishing is rapidly changing, and traditional presses, including university presses, continue to be impacted by new technologies and financial challenges,” Provost and Executive Vice President Lauren Robel said in a press release.

IU Press specializes in the humanities, social sciences and international studies. Last year, it published 135 new books and 28 journals, Rabinowitch said, a feat accomplished due to its extensive network of scholars from around the world. This network informs the press of who might be writing “the next great book.”

“Scholars come to us because they want to be published by us,” Rabinowitch said. “We have great strengths in particular genres.”

IU Press is a non-profit organization, so fundraising plays a small role in supporting it. Each year, the company sends out one fundraising letter called “Friends of the Press” in order to obtain contributions.

“For some books that are expensive to produce, like art books, we seek out a donor,” Rabinowitch said.

Still, like other for-profit publishers, most of the company’s income is from sales and licensing rights.

“We sell all over the world,” Rabinowitch said. “Our biggest customer is Amazon.”

Recently, IU Press has made large shifts to put more  of its publications into electronic form.

The press signed on with CoreSource, a digital asset management company that takes the digital files of every new book obtained by the Press and changes them into forms each e-book publisher requires. Kindle, Nook and Google all have different forms, Rabinowitch explained.

This shift in publication climate inspired IU to create the Office of Scholarly Publishing, which assumed operational responsibility of IU Press on July 1, according to a June press release.

“It has as much to do with bringing together publishing capability as it does with combining what other groups have to offer,” Rabinowitch said.

These other groups include IUScholarworks and the eTexts@IU initiative, both elements of IU Libraries’ digital publishing program. E-texts and open-access journals are a large part of this new program as it seeks to expand electronic book capabilities on campus.

“It’s an attempt to strengthen the Press, give it more resources,” Rabinowitch said.

A 2012 Pew Research Center study revealed that the number of e-book readers is steadily increasing. Despite changes, e-books remain only a small part of IU Press’ market.

“It’s still a very small part of book revenue,” Rabinowitch said. “It’s growing. But it’s got a long way to go. We still mostly sell print.”

The future certainly holds promise for e-books, Rabinowitch said.

Her observation is supported by Pew research stating that an average e-book user read 24 books in a year while a non-e-book user read only 15.

Student preferences are split, Rabinowitch explained. Some prefer print because they can take notes in print textbooks.

“Now that I see many kids at Monroe public schools getting iPads and doing all their work online, I wonder about the future,” she said. “But I don’t think print books will go away.”

 

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