University Press Week: “Speaking Up”

In Feature Articles, Opinion & Commentary by Porter Anderson

The 2023 University Press Week program features a range of key works and titles from ‘AUPresses’ member publishers.

Image: From the cover art for ‘Ordering Customs: Ethnographic Thought in Early Modern Venice‘ by Kathryn Taylor from the University of Delaware Press, one of 103 books listed in the Association of University Presses’ ‘Speak Up” week highlighting the work of scholarly presses

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

A List of 103 Highlighted Publications
This year’s University Press Week—from the Association of University Presses—is underway through Saturday (November 18), and its main feature is a reading list of 103 books that key players in the submitting publishing houses feel reflect what’s distinctive and valuable in the missions and capabilities of university-press output.

The theme this year is “Speak Up.” The word up, in “Speak Up,” can be read as a reference to university presses, and some call this annual program “UPweek.”

The speaking-up concept to some means that it’s a chance to demonstrate types of work that university presses may produce but “would often be overlooked by for-profit publishers.”

AUPresses, as the association is known, is made up of 160 nonprofit scholarly publishers, but—contrary to the halls-of-ivy ideas that might spring up for many of us when we hear university press, these are not all campus-based houses.

For example, it’s good to find that the week’s “Speak Up” list includes Richard V. Reeves’ important Of Boys and Men: Why the Modern Male Is Struggling, Why It Matters, and What To do About It, from the Brookings Institution Press.

As Publishing Perspectives readers will recall from our interview, Reeves’ research and data-driven work in forming the American Institute for Boys and Men addresses the critical need for attention to the accelerating crisis that requires quick recognition that “gender inequalities can go in both directions.”

Reeves’ book in hardcover is available at for a very affordable US$24.84, with a paperback expected in May at $17.96, a very effective audiobook reading by Reeves available now at $19.70, and a Kindle edition for $17.06.

Another of the University Press Week’s highlighted titles, Planet Work: Rethinking Labor and Leisure in the Anthropocene from Bucknell University Press and edited by Ryan Hediger, features the contributions of at least a dozen writers and brings together today’s concepts of work with questions on the “grave traumas and hazards plaguing planet Earth.” Is what we think of today as our work sustainable?

The hardcover of Planet Work is priced at US$150. The paperback, an ePub edition, and a PDF each goes for $42.95. There is no audiobook edition offered at any price.

As many will note in perusing this big, interesting list, the question of retail cost in scholarly publishing—often at vastly different price points—is easily evident in the Reeves and Hediger gook, and yet it’s something that many consumers (and some trade publishing professionasl) find at times baffling, even frustrating.

As the Association of University Presses works to alert the wider world to the superb material its publishing members are producing, it might be worth “speaking up” at some point on the fact that some of the best work is priced to live only in library collections. However handsomely and deservedly this work may supported and subsidized, or not, many of the best examples of the AUPresses’ members’ work lie beyond the reach of even the most committed, inquisitive, and comfortably paid “planet workers.”

This is hardly a problem belonging to the Association of University Presses, of course, nor is its special week the only setting in which you’ll encounter the issue. Our readers have noticed that this always becomes apparent in the annual PROSE Awards from the Association of American Publishers (AAP), as it does here. For example, the 2020 winner of the sprawling PROSE competition, Carmen C. Bambach’s Leonardo da Vinci Revisited, is priced by Yale University Press at $550.00.

And we should rush to say that all the work on this good AUPresses list—perhaps most of it—is by no means priced in at levels that make the idea of owning it merely academic.

But when AUPresses talks of for-profit publishers perhaps “overlooking” some of the work that’s published by scholarly presses, one component of a commercial house’s decision against something with trade market potential here could turn on its publication being financially impractical in the commercial sector.

Another interesting contrast with the trade: audiobooks editions are not doing much “speaking up” here, despite the fact that in the trade, the format is the fastest-growing, now with a decade of double-digit growth in the United States. Certainly work that relies on imagery in scholarly fields may not make sense for audio editions, but as popular as nonfiction audiobooks are in the trade, it seems that certain scholarly production might benefit from a second look at the potential for audio.

Among affordable work on the week’s list, here is Adrienne Buller’s The Value of a Whale: On the Illusions of Green Capitalism from Manchester University Press, sweetly priced in paperback at £12.99 (US$17.55).

And here’s Courtney Thorsson’s The Sisterhood: How a Network of Black Women Writers Changed American Culture from Columbia University Press, going at a very reasonable $28.95 in hardcover and $27.99 in an ebook edition.

Overall, the week’s list is divided into a series of helpful categories of material. We’ll list them here with the links to each category’s gathering of books in an attractive slide format:

Events as Well as Titles

There are events happening during “UPweek,” and it appears that at least six of them have digital availabilities, which of course helps an organization of the scale of AUPresses have a more practical offer.

Among the in-person events, on Monday evening in New York City, Dan Sinykin, the author of Big Fiction: How Conglomeration Changed the Publishing Industry and American Literature from Columbia University Press was in conversation with Mark Krotov at the Strand Book Store.

There’s one event on the list outside the United States, a program from Bristol University Press this evening (November 15) at 6 p.m. at Bristol’s Bookhaus, featuring moderator George Miller and author Steve Cooke on his What Are Animal Rights For? and author Catherine Oliver on What Is Veganism For?

International Reach

The organization operates as an international program, and has supplied us, at our request, with a list of non-US presses participating in University Press Week this year, for the benefit of our internationalist professional publishing readership.

That list comprises:

  • Liverpool University Press (UK)
  • Edinburgh University Press (UK)
  • Manchester University Press (UK)
  • Bristol University Press (UK)
  • The University of West Indies Press (Jamaica)
  • Wits University Press (South Africa)
  • Cork University Press (Ireland)
  • Leuven University Press (Belgium)
  • American University in Cairo Press (Egypt)
  • American School of Classical Studies at Athens (Greece)
  • University of Alberta (Canada)
  • University of British Columbia (Canada)
  • University of Manitoba (Canada)
  • Athabasca University Press (Canada)
  • Regina University Press (Canada)
  • Toronto University Press (Canada)
  • Wilfrid Laurier University Press (Canada)
  • McGill University Press (Canada)
  • Association of Canadian University Presses (Canada)

From the University of Delaware Press by Kathryn Taylor: ‘Ordering Customs: Ethnographic Thought in Early Modern Venice

The week’s programming also includes a blog tour,  and it’s good to see that Leuven University Press was represented on it on Monday, with some insights from Annemie Vandezande on what the week’s hashtag #SpeakUP means at that publishing hub in the Netherlands. Vandezande considers Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; “Going Beyond the Majority’s Voice”; and “Interdisciplinarity as a Guiding Principle.”

Vandezande’s and other writers’ thoughts in this section of the program represent several internationally based voices. Here, you can read commentary not only from Leuven but also from Amsterdam University Press; McGill-Queen’s University Press in Montreal; the University of the West Indies Press; Bristol University Press; and the University of Alberta Press.

We’ll leave you with a paragraph from Bristol University Press’ brief essay on “what speaking up means” there in west of England:

“What does speaking up mean to Bristol University Press? It fundamentally comes back to the question of what helps create the conditions for the widest social good. Regardless of background, country, politics or culture, everyone should be able to live knowing that they are safe and that they have their basic needs met. They can feed themselves and have appropriate shelter. They are not having to deal with war, conflict or abuse and can live without fear. Their children can access an education and a place to play. Physical and mental health care is available. And most importantly our planet and communities around the world are sustainable in the short and long-term.  As a not-for-profit, mission-led university press, speaking up is what we have always done and what we will always continue to do.”

More from Publishing Perspectives on the Association of University Presses is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.