Saturday, May 26, 2012

U. of Missouri Press to Close; Page Celebrates "Legacy"; Penguin Launches A Pintail

University of Missouri president Tim Wolfe apparently surprised staff with the announcement Thursday that the UM Press will close. Started in 1958, it currently publishes about 30 titles a year, and has issued approximately 2,000 books since its founding. Wolfe said they "take seriously our role to be good stewards of public funds, to use those funds to achieve our strategic priorities and re-evaluate those activities that are not central to our core mission." The Press has been receiving a $400,000 annual subsidy. A phase out of operations will begin this July.
"Ten employees will be affected," the Columbia Daily Tribune writes. Seven positions had been eliminated in 2009. Provost Brian Foster indicates a committee is "exploring new models that could support scholarly communication in new ways that take advantage of changing technology," the paper adds.

Faber chief executive Stephen Page defends the company's 80-year "legacy" as an "inheritance" that "describes strength for publishers." He writes: "Those who seek to convince consumers of the inevitable irrelevance of existing cultural and entertainment companies do so precisely because these companies have power and expertise. Not power to control distribution any more, but certainly the power to fight for the rights of creative people, to invest in them, and to think imaginatively about what might be made from excellent intellectual property. This legacy offers expertise, resource and power, not weakness, and there are some for whom this is an inconvenient truth."
Page adds, "Our legacy is to know how to create an audience and value for our writers; and, because we've published only what we think is really good, we have a legacy called brand, or rather an authentic identity in the world of writing and reading." At the same time, he acknowledges that the legacy will only endure through reinvention: "Any existing business, no matter what old-world strength it has, will fail if it is not bold enough to attack its own DNA where necessary."

This fall will see the launch of Penguin Pintail, "a boutique imprint" of trade paperbacks "bringing a highly-curated selection of the very best Penguin Canada titles" to the US market. (You can find the catalog here.)

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