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University Presses: Writing of Substance

November 14, 2012

UPress week

We are pleased to have OSU Press author Robert Michael Pyle blogging for us as part of the University Press Week blog tour.  A complete blog tour schedule is available here.

Bob PyleAs a writer who has published books for three decades with several of the major commercial publishing houses, I have become a greater and greater advocate for university presses. My experience in commercial publishing has generally been good. However, I have also been in a position to see some of its rawer exposures: unfriendly takeovers and mergers, the sinking of fine old houses to the status of coat-closets in giant conglomerates merely for the better pickings of the backlist bone yard, the shredding of books not a year out from literary awards in order to avoid inventory taxes, undue obeisance to big-chain bookstores, and on and on. The mercantile publishing world has grown even more starkly philistine and timid under the recent onslaught of e-books, to the peril of the backlist, contracts underway, and anything adventurous. When the bottom line alone calls the shots, the shots become mere potshots instead of shooting stars. By contrast, I have found university presses to be willing to engage and promote good books with readers more in mind than bean-counters. Not that they don't attend to business: they must adhere to good value and prudent choices, in a time of tight budgets. But the commitment to writing of substance in a non-profit setting makes the university presses capable of creating the kinds of high-quality, greatly varied, and original books that are growing all too scarce in the world of profit-driven publishing. While not giving up on the private houses altogether, I have truly enjoyed my first two outings with a university press, and look forward to more. I, for one, feel that civilization will live on, and well, as long as our universities stand and their presses continue to print significant books that might otherwise never see publication.

Robert Michael Pyle, author of OSUP titles The Tangled Bank and The Thunder Tree, lives in Southwest Washington.

 

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