From the University Presses — What University Presses Think About Open Access

Column Editor: Sanford G. Thatcher (Director, Penn State Press, USB 1, Suite C, 820 N. University Drive, University Park, PA 16802-1003; Phone: 814-865-1327; Fax: 814-863-1408)
sgt3@psu.edu  
www.psupress.org

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Column Editor’s Note: This article is based on a talk prepared for the Open Access Symposium at the University of North Texas on May 18, 2010: http://openaccess.unt.edu/symposium. — SGT

I envy a commercial publisher like Elsevier. Its mission can be very simply defined: make enough money to pay your employees and keep your stockholders happy. Whether Elsevier were in the business of making widgets or publishing books and journals, that mission would remain the same. The means to achieve that end can be very complex, but the mission itself is simple and straightforward.

Not so the mission of a university press like the one that employs me. It straddles two worlds, academic and commercial, which each have imperatives unique to them that are often in tension if not outright conflict. On the one hand, and above all, a university press’s mission is defined by the imperative that drives academe as a whole: create new knowledge and communicate it to the next generation of students and scholars. On the other hand, every university press must make enough money to stay viable as a commercial enterprise operating in the same business environment as any other publisher. A few can do so without the help of their parent universities; the vast majority cannot and need to be subsidized at some level (on average, 10% of their operating budget).

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