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Indiana University Press plays important role in publishing world

From books about artists in Indiana's Brown County, to the story of an American woman in World War II, the Indiana University Press publishes books its administrators believe will matter 20 or even a 100 years from now.

For more than 57 years, the Indiana University Press has been publishing books and has been recognized as an internationally leading academic publisher that specializes in the humanities and social sciences. This year, the Journals Division is celebrating its 20th annivesary.


Janet Rabinowitch, director of Indiana University Press, shares the importance of a university press.

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The press publishes about 150 new books each year as well as approximately 30 journals. Indiana University Press also maintains a backlist of about 2,000 titles.

The press is financed primarily through income generated from sales and is supplemented partially by support from IU, as well as gifts and grants from several outside sources. Books from Indiana University Press have won numerous awards for scholarly merit and design, including two National Book Awards, five Herskovits Awards in African studies and several National Jewish Book Awards.

Janet Rabinowitch is director of Indiana University Press. On a daily basis, she oversees a 50-person staff, including those in editorial, production, sales and marketing, journals and operations departments. In addition, she also supervises the warehouse where the inventory of books and journals are housed and from which they are shipped.

"Each day brings its share of issues to be considered and decisions to be made about matters large and small," Rabinowitch said.

Rabinowitch sat down with Live at IU to discuss the role of a university press and the unique challenges a university press faces.

LIVE AT IU: What is the role of a university press?
RABINOWITCH: University presses publish the results of academic research and scholarship for both academic readers (scholars and students) and the broader public.

What makes a university press different from a book publishing company?
RABINOWITCH: In contrast to commercial book publishers, a university press's primary mission is an academic one.

LIVE AT IU: What is the goal of the IU Press?
RABINOWITCH: IU Press' mission is to inform and inspire scholars, students and general readers by disseminating ideas and knowledge of global significance, regional importance and lasting value.

LIVE AT IU: How has the goal of the IU Press shifted since it was founded in 1950?
RABINOWITCH: The basic goal of IU Press is the same as it was when Herman B Wells, who founded IU Press, defined it in 1950: "The Press will be an ultimate expression of the influence of the University in scientific and intellectual publishing. While thoroughly aware of its primary function -- that of publishing the results of scholarly research -- the Press will make every effort to balance its program with books . . . which will appeal to the intelligent general reader. The Press will endeavor to extend the University's teaching and research beyond the library, laboratory and classroom, thus performing a function of a university pecularly important in a democracy. . . . While its interest will be wide, the Press is particularly concerned with the promotion of regional culture and literature in the Midwestern area."

For IU Press, as for so many other areas, Chancellor Wells shaped an enduring vision that remains timely after more than 55 years, although specific ways of implementing that vision have evolved. IU Press' mission remains that of publishing works of scholarly distinction and intellectual merit, along with more general regional titles that offer fresh perspectives on the history and culture of Indiana and the Midwest.

LIVE AT IU: Why do you think a university press is a benefit to IU?
RABINOWITCH: IU Press' publications extend the reach and influence of Indiana University throughout the nation and the world. We think of our books and journals as individual ambassadors -- tens of thousands of copies, in print and now many also in electronic form, carrying the Indiana University imprint, reaching readers around the globe each year. I'm often told by foreign scholars that they know of Indiana University because they have Indiana University Press books on their bookshelves or subscribe to our journals. By disseminating the range and value of ideas and research generated within the academy to the scholarly community at large and to the broader public, IU Press plays an important role in advancing the academic and public missions of Indiana University. IU Press generates favorable publicity for IU through media coverage, book reviews and awards won by our publications.

IU Press contributes to scholarly communication within the University its expertise as a professional publisher, including its ability to insure the quality of published work through careful selection, peer review and editorial development; its acumen in achieving an academic mission while managing its operations as a nonprofit business; its experience in marketing, dissemination and cost recovery; its understanding of intellectual property issues; and in general its ability to reach out to the general public. Through its regional publications under the Quarry Books imprint, IU Press helps connect IU with people throughout the state.

LIVE AT IU: What are the challenges a university press faces that an ordinary book publisher may not?
RABINOWITCH: University presses face many of the same challenges that non-university presses which publish serious nonfiction or textbooks face in the current publishing world. These include shrinking and increasingly fragmented markets, the progressive weakening of the library market (especially for monographs and print subscriptions to journals), the volatility of the market for textbooks (as a result of the growing popularity of course packs and electronic reading assignments and changes in students' book buying and studying habits -- spending more time on the web than in the library), the disappearance of independent book stores and the concentration of sales in the chains, which require high discounts and generate high returns; the high costs involved in keeping up with new technologies in all aspects of publishing; and the transition to digital publication. A major difference is that unlike commercial publishers, especially the large publishing conglomerates, university presses do not have capital to invest in research and development.