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This study examined segments of the difficult situation currently facing university presses. Shrinking libraryorders, print runs, and university subsidies have led the presses to develop various strategies to recover costs. The cutbacks intraditional monographs and the lure of the cross-over book have constituted a prevalent list-building strategy, with mixedconsequences for art history. We are impressed by the work of the university press art history editors, their genuine commitment toscholarship, acquiring of high-quality and innovative work, and the finely produced books that they publish. But while their imprimaturconfers enormous prestige, the presses operate in an increasingly circumscribed field, and surveying that field raises a questionabout mission. The mission of the university presses and how they relate to their universities is unclear and in need ofrethinking.

In his famous article "Marketing Myopia," Theodore Levitt, the late Harvard Business School professor,described industries that are "endangering their futures by improperly describing their purposes." Hollywood, for example,failed to see television as a threat because it saw its product as movies, not entertainment. "There is no such thing as a growthindustry...;," Levitt wrote, "only companies organized and operated to capitalize on growth opportunities."

Theodore Levitt, "Marketing Myopia," Harvard Business Review 38 no. 4 (July-August 1960), 46, 47.
His insight pertains to university presses, which have primarilydefined their business as book publishing, not knowledge transmission, and partially as a result have been relatively slowto participate in online publishing. Some presses have launched successful online journal programs, but born-digital ventures arestill rare, and art history is probably the least likely point of entry. No one press can solve the image problem or create a marketfor e-books. These changes require larger scale, collective action.

Libraries, by contrast, define their mission in terms of the dissemination of information, and they have becomeinnovative leaders in the electronic domain. Loyalty to beautifully produced books is a wonderful thing, but it appears to have keptpresses from capitalizing on a growth opportunity. If university presses redefine their business in terms of the transmission ofknowledge rather than strictly the publishing of books, common ground opens up with their university libraries, and productivecollaborations between libraries and university presses, now nascent, will grow. Forward-thinking leaders in several presses andlibraries are working together, fashioning new relationships, and pursing new directions, but more could be done. The presses lackthe resources to launch full-fledged electronic publications, but such infrastructural capacity already exists in the library system.In collaboration, university presses and libraries could have a very positive impact on scholarly publication, but this suggestionbegs the question of the puzzling relationship of universities to the presses that bear their name.

University presses appear to be kept at a distance from their parent institutions. The press receives directand indirect subsidy and obviously trades on the university's good name, yet the press is not integrated in the university system. Onehas to wonder what role university leaders think their presses should perform. The strengths of the presses are usually notcoordinated with the university's academic strengths, nor are publishing initiatives aligned with institutional objectives. Wouldit not be more productive for the university, the faculty, and the press if they collaborated, and if at least some editorial policiesreinforced common intellectual priorities and supported faculty research? Such collaborative thinking need not hamper the vitalrole university presses play in publishing stimulating new scholarship independent of institutional affiliations; it would begeared instead to enhancing and clarifying university press missions in specific instances. Why should universities alienatetheir presses when they could play a role in advancing the institutional mission? That is a question for university leaders toanswer.

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Source:  OpenStax, Art history and its publications in the electronic age. OpenStax CNX. Sep 20, 2006 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10376/1.1
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