PUP Volunteerism Highlight: The Oxford Hot Water Bottle Project

Many of us in the #ReadUP world are inspired by the university press mission to contribute to society in the form of knowledge and ideas. But the ethos is not bound to the pages of a book; many of our staff and peers are also invested in community development and engagement. To support these commitments, and encourage community building within and far beyond our publishing house, we have formed a Community Building Committee, which includes as one of its pillars a volunteer committee. Over the last year, PUP staff have convened colleagues across departments and the globe to help serve meals at community kitchens, collect donations for many local organizations, rebuild trails in local preserves, send books to incarcerated readers, rebuild a library collection destroyed by fire in Rio, and as this blog post by senior publicist Katie Lewis shares, reached out to the homeless population in Oxford. The enthusiasms we bring to all of our collaborations, from books to community building events, enliven every chapter of our collective publishing narrative.

–Christie Henry, Director

Oxford is one of the UK’s most affluent cities, and the least affordable.

Oxford, the closest city to Princeton University Press’s European office, is a beautiful, historic centre of academia, culture, architecture and history. One cannot help marvelling at its beauty and noticing the affluence of the university colleges, which make up a large part of the town centre. But there is another side to Oxford that is just as visible, even if it does not make it into the guide books.  

Homelessness is a global problem, but it is particularly acute in Oxford. According to Homeless Oxfordshire, a charity that provides shelter, safety, hot meals and basic facilities for about 550 homeless people in the city and surrounding areas, the number of rough sleepers in Oxford has increased by 175% since 2012. There has also been a spike in deaths among homeless people in Oxford this winter, as reported by The Guardian.

The high numbers of rough sleepers in Oxford may be due the affluence of the city and the fact that many of its inhabitants, students and tourists can spare a little change. Rough sleepers from other parts of the country are known to make their way to Oxford in the hope of receiving more casual financial help (change on the streets) than they might in their home towns.

Oxford is also one of the most economically uneven cities in the UK: an area called Blackbird Leys is one of the most socioeconomically deprived areas in the country, despite being only a couple of miles from the grandeur of the world-class university. The economic situation there may go some way to explaining why Oxford’s homelessness problem is so severe.

Homelessness is also perhaps particularly prevalent in Oxford due to the high cost of housing – Oxford has been widely held as the UK’s least affordable city since at least 2014. According to Homeless Oxfordshire, the average Oxford house price of £491,900 is around 16 times the average yearly household income of £29,400, and the rental market reflects this, with many rented rooms just as expensive as those in London, without the artificially boosted salaries enjoyed in the capital.  

I started handing out hot water bottles to Oxford’s rough sleepers in January 2018 when it occurred to me how horrible it would be to be out in the snow without the cosy hot water bottle that I enjoy on my lap in the Princeton office during the colder months. I started a JustGiving page and with the help of a friend, handed out 50 hot water bottles over the next couple of weeks.

Handing out hot water bottles in the snow.

This year, I was thrilled when Princeton University Press decided to make the “Oxford Hot Water Bottle Project” one of the beneficiaries of its volunteering programme. PUP kindly funded the purchase of 360 hot water bottles, and my colleague Keira Andrews and I have been handing out freshly-filled hot water bottles to chilly Oxford citizens on particularly icy evenings this winter.

Whenever the temperature reaches freezing or below, the council actions its Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP), meaning that shelters open their doors to anybody, not just those with a link to Oxford. The shelters’ aim during this time is to get as many people out of the cold as possible. However, there are lots of people who, for various reasons, prefer not to go to shelters even in sub-zero temperatures, and those are the people that we aim to help.

Rough sleepers can refill their hot water bottles at The Handle Bar, a wonderful bicycle-themed café on St Michael’s Street in Oxford. As well as serving utterly fantastic food in a lovely environment, they have also gracefully put up with filling dozens of hot water bottles for us so far, and have agreed to refill bottles for anyone who asks. The Handle Bar and its staff are an invaluable resource to us, and we are very grateful.

It is always very moving and humbling to spend a few hours connecting with people on the streets and trying to fathom what it must be like to feel cold for weeks and weeks on end. Hopefully, Princeton University Press’s partnership with The Handle Bar will bring relief and the promise of slightly more comfortable nights out in the cold to growing numbers of people.

–Katie Lewis, Senior Publicist, European Office

 

 

I Hear My People Singing: Voices of African American Princeton

I Hear My People Singing by Kathryn Watterson shines a light on a small but historic black neighborhood at the heart of one of the most elite and world-renowned Ivy-League towns—Princeton, New Jersey. The vivid first-person accounts of more than fifty black residents detail aspects of their lives throughout the twentieth century. Their stories show that the roots of Princeton’s African American community are as deeply intertwined with the town and university as they are with the history of the United States, the legacies of slavery, and the nation’s current conversations on race.

In the summer of 1999, Kathryn Watterson spoke with residents from the Witherspoon neighborhood in Princeton to talk about volunteer opportunities for students in one of her writing seminars. One of the men, Henry “Hank” Pannell, said, “Your poverty course sounds wonderful, but what we really want is an oral history of our community before it’s too late.” Below is an excerpt from one of Watterson’s interviews with Pannell in 2000.

(p. 67 – 70)

I guess everybody my age remembers Einstein from when we were kids. He used to give us nickels. And he used to talk to everybody in our community. I didn’t know as a kid that he was Einstein. Who, Einstein? But I realize now that he came in that community just to get away and to talk to people who would treat him as a regular guy. . . .

You know, there were such great people. We all grew up together. And it wasn’t just all black kids. There was the Servis family, the Cavanaugh family, the Toto family—we were all family. They were part of our crew, our little gang, our club. We used to all be together. They used to come to my house. We were at their houses. I remember my mother or grandmother got sick, their parents were right there. The same thing when Mrs. Cavanaugh got sick—my mother and grandmother were right there.

I wouldn’t trade one second of my childhood. I have so many fond memories of growing up here. . . . I really didn’t know anything about racism. I knew that we couldn’t go into like the Balt, the big cafeteria up on Nassau Street right where Hinkson’s and Burger King are, and Veidt’s, and places like that, you couldn’t go in. But we didn’t want to go no way. We had to go upstairs in the Garden Theatre, but we liked it upstairs. On Nassau Street, there was a little store called Cleve’s, and we used to go there, but we were treated like—you know. We knew we weren’t welcome in that store. I remember several incidents—one where he said, “You niggers, get out of here.”  So we bought our candy at a little store right around the corner—at Mr. Ball’s.

Mrs. Doris Burrell, who opened a hair salon in Princeton in 1944, spoke with Watterson’s student, Lauren Miller, in October 2000. Excerpts from that interview appear below.

(p. 266 – 267)

The fireworks started when it was time for our first child, Sondra, to start school in September of 1946. My husband went to segregated schools here [in Princeton], but I didn’t. So we talked it over, and I said, “No. This is ridiculous. . . . What right do they have that they can ask us to send our tax money up there? We live in Princeton, we’re paying taxes for our child’s education, and they’re supposed to educate her.” We decided she wasn’t going to school up on Quarry Street. I had nothing against the principal there or against blacks. It wasn’t that. It was just morally wrong. That’s all. So, we decided we were going to enroll our child at Valley Road School, where she was supposed to go. And that’s what we did. I went down, and . . . the principal was wonderful. It was almost like she was glad to see us. I thought that she was going to give us trouble, but she didn’t. She registered our daughter and made sure I had everything right. She had a little smile on her face like she was happy. And, so that was all done. . . .

There was a black woman who came to see me who worked as a maid at this very, very wealthy white woman’s house—one of the wealthiest white families in town. So she came and said, “Doris, I want to tell you . . . I think you’re making a mistake in sending your child down here to school. Because the woman I work for, she had a dinner party last night and they talked about this situation. [They said,] ‘Who does she think she is sending her child down to the Valley Road School? She thinks her daughter is going to go there, but she’s not.’  And she told her maid, because she knew she came to my hair salon, to tell me the same thing. So her maid said, ‘I don’t think you better let your child go to that school because you really don’t know what they’ll do to you.’”

I said, “You just go back and you tell them that I said, ‘Come hell or high water, our child is going to that school. I don’t care what it costs. We will take them to court for the rest of my life.’”  . . . Everybody was upset . . . I began to wonder about our human race. God makes birds of all kinds and animals and they all live their lives together.

Joseph Moore became Assistant Dean of Students at Princeton University in 1968, as part of President Robert Goheen’s attempts to diversify the campus. At the time Goheen reached out to him, Moore was leading an intensive program for black students in Trenton. His memories of that program appear below.

(p. 280)

Actually, when I graduated from Central State, I went to work for the Job Corps. I recognized it was a time that I had really seriously made my own decision—I couldn’t continue to live my mother’s dream. That was Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society Program. And we were taking kids from all over the country. It was in Edison, New Jersey, in the old Camp Kilmer. It was a military base that was built for returning GIs coming home from the Second World War, which they turned into a Job Corps center, where they gave kids vocational training experiences, all kinds of stuff—carpentry, plumbing, electrical stuff, construction, engineering types of things—as a way to put them back in the workforce and make them, I guess, dues-paying members of society. I was a group leader. I had sixty kids from all over the country. So, anyway, I did that for about a year and a half. From there, I went to Central High in Trenton and was recruited to create a school within a school using Outward Bound techniques.

Essentially what I did was create a program that went seven days a week, twenty-four-seven. We were not only in class seven days a week, but we were out every weekend, whether it be mountain climbing, canoeing, hiking, spelunking—you name it—all the kinds of stuff that Outward Bound was created for. It was an attempt to urbanize the Outward Bound concept. And so, I brought that concept to Trenton High. I had a staff of teachers who taught, and it also required the teachers to go out on weekends with us. And basically it was designed as another alternative to traditional education that was being offered in the urban setting.

We got raving reviews for our work and the program. We had kids who went on to college. I was pretty adamant about the fact that it wasn’t going to become a generalist program. If you climb a mountain, it doesn’t mean that you’re going to be successful in urban life. But it does mean that it may give you enough character and enough strength to make some things not happen that would ordinarily happen.

Kathryn Watterson is a writer whose award-winning books include Women in Prison (Doubleday) and Not by the Sword (Simon & Schuster). She’s written for magazines, literary journals, and newspapers, including the New York Times and International Herald Tribune. She teaches creative writing at the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia, where she lives and drums. 

Carolyn Dever: Birth of a Queer Parent

This article was originally published by Public Books and is reprinted here with permission.

By virtue of their youth, trans and queer kids offer something new. Coming out today is less exclusively a narrative of young adulthood or middle age, and increasingly an experience of childhood or early adolescence. When kids embrace models of social identity newly available to their generation, the parents who love and care for them confront new forms of obligation, and even new forms of agency: with every queer child is born a queer parent.

But queer parenting doesn’t exist on its own. Queer parenting also means precarity parenting, as families face down a fragmented and insufficient system of supports while they attempt to optimize the conditions for their kids’ success. Queer identity and economic precarity have rewritten the conventional scripts of parenthood together.

Parents hold in their hands the capacity to reshape core concepts of social identity, a fact that runs directly counter to the understanding of the family as inherently conservative. In fact, parents make choices every day about how to raise their kids. Those choices are sensitive to the social and economic incentives that translate into opportunities for children to survive and thrive. Because their LGBTQ kids have changed the narrative of childhood gender and sexuality, parents find themselves at the live edge of social transformation.

Today, queer children and teenagers can be out and proud from a very early age. According to sociologist Mary Robertson, queerness offers kids the chance to express a range of nonnormative ways of being: capturing a rich mix of gender identity and sexuality, race and class, ability, and educational and work opportunities.[1.Mary Robertson, Growing Up Queer: Kids and the Remaking of LGBTQ Identity (NYU Press, 2018), pp. 5–6.] That fact is transformative to their families of origin, and from there outward to the conceptual contours of normative identity. One by one, and collectively, queer families demonstrate the futility of any effort to “erase” trans and queer identities.

Queer Parents and Social Agency

“It is rare to have an opportunity to watch an emergent social category in formation,” writes sociologist Tey Meadow in the landmark study Trans Kids: Being Gendered in the Twenty-First Century. Only in the last decade or so has gender nonconformity emerged as a serious challenge to the normative bureaucratic institutions that form children’s identities: doctor’s offices, schools, and social services; shops, dressing rooms, and bathrooms; proms and playing fields.

This represents the dramatic reorientation of gender identity from a fact of anatomy—it’s a girl!—to a private psychic expression particular to an individual, evolving uniquely over time within the life of each person. In Meadow’s eyes, this marks not a post-gender moment, when gender no longer matters, but gender’s proliferation: not the failure of a child to conform with one of two categories of gender identity, but the failure of categories themselves to capture the full diversity of gender expressions.

If gender nonconformity emerges not as the failure of gender but as its form, the parents of queer little kids become agents poised to dismantle the traditional sex/gender system. Meadow writes: “Parents are becoming ever more likely to fight for a child’s chosen identity, to contest the labeling practices of others, to engage in more directed interpersonal work to assist children in further articulating a discrete identity, to purchase clothing and toys that reinforce that identity, and to enlist social institutions in identity creation and maintenance.” Families operate alongside courts, schools, and the medical establishment as institutions that regulate normative categories of gender and sexuality in kids.

But in the past decade, administrative processes within such institutions have begun to adapt. Social shifts in understanding gender as psychological rather than anatomical have enabled parents to adopt modes of agency and advocacy on behalf of their kids. For many families this agency emerges in the context of vulnerability to state interventions that both reflect and exacerbate inequality.

The state is an active participant in the work of gendering, in both positive and negative ways: “On the one hand, the state confers recognition, in the form of legal name changes and gender changes, antidiscrimination protections, and disability rights paradigms (which can be particularly useful in schools). In this way, we can see gender as a resource distributed by the state. On the other hand, the state also both regulates and punishes deviance.”

At the same time as families are learning to manage state interventions in their kids’ gender nonconformity, they are increasingly exposed to the economic precarity that is in part a function of post-recession instabilities. On both fronts, the cold jaws of social and economic inequality loom, threatening to snap down and trap young kids for life.

Precarity and Parental Agency

When inequality is high, helicopter parents launch. When families are vulnerable to discrimination or poverty, ferocious parental ingenuity kicks in. And when social gains are available to a select few, parents will do whatever they can to ensure that their kids are prepared to benefit. Families and parenting are changing in more ways than one.

Parents parent differently in response to incentives and opportunities. In those areas of the globe that have witnessed the rise of income inequality over the last half century, parenting strategies have changed dramatically. Parents adapt their styles and strategies in order to optimize their kids’ opportunities—for survival, for success, for happiness—on a ladder of achievement that is increasingly perilous.

“The story often told about financial success in America is that slow and steady saving over a lifetime, combined with consistent hard work and a little luck, will ensure financial security, a comfortable retirement, and better opportunities for one’s children,” write Jonathan Morduch and Rachel Schneider in The Financial Diaries: How American Families Cope in a World of Uncertainty. Yet the lived experiences of families shred this myth, revealing instead an often silent precarity that Morduch and Schneider describe as “America’s hidden inequality.”

For generations, most families have not seen themselves reflected in the mirror of America’s dream. Surely “American’s hidden inequality” was not so very hidden to families of color, nor to queer or single-parent or poor households, nor to anyone outside the great mythology of aspiration. Indeed, the mechanics of parental aspiration in the US today are an outcome of decades and centuries of resourcefulness from families “other” to the normative middle-class ideal.

What has changed? Precarity is now a daily feature of the white, middle-class experience. Developments in technology and human capital distribution since the 1970s have extended financial fragility, and all its social implications, even more broadly. As Morduch and Schneider tell the story, the “Great Job Shift” of the last half century transferred risk from employers to workers, and power from workers to employers. Today, many workers lack a paycheck that is steady, predictable, and sufficient to meet basic needs—a development extended to US federal employees and contractors during the “Trump shutdown.”

Poor families earn less. But they are also subject to brutal income volatility, to unpredictable cycles of earning and expenses. Such vulnerability is increasingly common in the context of rising informality of working arrangements—unpredictable shift work, freelancers replacing full-timers, gig workers patching together a quilt of sidelines—that preserve all flexibility for the employer at the expense of the employed. Income volatility in turn produces extreme vulnerability to the cyclical needs of kids, such as childcare, school supplies, medicine, new shoes … college.

Critical events such as car or health problems are then devastating—though in many cases, vulnerability results in great creativity: “The families we met had developed a range of strategies for managing their cash-flow challenges, as well as for balancing their longer-term goals with their immediate and near-term financial needs … The strategies were often thoughtful and creative, helping families preserve their resources for their highest priorities.” Absent a social safety net, ingenuity makes a virtue of necessity.

It’s about cash-flow management. Programs that rethink the temporality of savings—emphasizing needs emerging sooner rather than later—can help families manage the peaks and valleys of unpredictable income. Strategies of borrowing and sharing among broader communities can insulate individual households from vulnerability, and also create a network of affective bonds: “Social meanings matter to households’ long-term financial decisions and even their day-to-day cash flows. Money is more than a symbol of financial worth, and people rarely make financial decisions based purely on math. Instead, money can be a way that people structure their choices and express their values.”

With ingenuity comes a rewriting of the rigid conventions of social identity associated with the “American dream.” At stake is survival in an inhospitable social field, rather than loyalty to a status quo that has come to strip most people of the capacity to thrive. Inequality, suggest Matthias Doepke and Fabrizio Zilibotti in Love, Money, and Parenting: How Economics Explains the Way We Raise Our Kids, has a powerful shaping force on the choices parents make, and how parents interact with their kids. Developmental psychologists generally understand three distinct approaches to parenting style: authoritarian, or strict and controlling; permissive, or oriented toward children’s independence; and a more hybrid approach, authoritative, based in reason and the development of values.[2.Doepke and Zilibotti adopt this framework from the developmental psychologist Diana Baumrind.]

Doepke and Zilibotti’s study asks why parents adopt a particular parenting strategy. What are the sensitivities that shape parental agency? And what strategies are most effective given the constraints and opportunities facing a family?

When inequality is high, intensive parenting styles—think helicopter parents or stereotypical Asian American tiger moms who take the authoritarian approach—undergird aspirations for upward mobility. In cultures with a flatter social terrain, greater equity among schools and universities, and a reliable social safety net, more permissive or laissez-faire parenting styles prevail. “When it comes to parenting,” write Doepke and Zilibotti, “incentives matter big time.” In a country like the United States, which has witnessed dramatic increases in inequality over the past 30 years, parenting has changed dramatically in turn: “Tiger and helicopter parenting grew increasingly popular just when inequality rose sharply.”

Based on those incentives, parents exercise extraordinary agency in the choices they make for their children. There is a direct correlation, Doepke and Zilibotti demonstrate, between prosperity and access to the full repertoire of choices available to parents, and between the stress of precarity or poverty and the social limits of parenting. All well-meaning parents “attempt to do what it takes to get their children to succeed, given the economic conditions in play.” Yet, in the authors’ words, the “parenting gap” in resources can turn into a “parenting trap” in outcomes, requiring ever more ingenuity and assertive action.

Economic conditions of the 21st century have rewritten the conventional scripts of parenthood and introduced new roadblocks on the way to security and prosperity for children. The social constraints of parental identity evolve in turn as parents invent and use new tools in their aspirational pursuits.

Queer Parenting, Precarity Parenting

What does it mean for kids to not just survive but thrive? To what social conventions are parents beholden when they act on behalf of their children’s futures?

In light of dramatic changes in social conventions of gender and sexuality, what it means to set a kid up for happiness looks different than it used to. Parents make choices on behalf of the well-being of their children every day, choices that are often creative or unconventional, and that are almost always deeply personal. Parents emerge as gender warriors when social possibilities of gendered identity begin to expand, and the health and prosperity of their trans kids depends on finding a place to thrive within that world.

Yet for those gender warriors, it’s early days. Within the ethnographic study that produced Trans Kids, Meadow’s own gender nonconformity and the identities of the study’s subjects remained a persistent topic of negotiation and scrutiny. Meadow describes “a peculiar kind of carnal sociology,” with the investigator’s identity clearly also in the mix. “Others’ reactions to my gender,” Meadow writes, “their assumptions, discomforts, and interests became an embodied ethnographic project. It was in these self-conscious moments that I believe I came closest to knowing the gender nonconforming child, by which I mean living the experience of having one’s body and identity be the object of a particular type of searching gaze, one tinged with worry, fear, expectation, sometimes hope.”

Subject to hyper-scrutiny, trans kids embody a charged form of epistemological uncertainty. It’s up to their parents to translate such a perceived instability at the core of a child’s self into a successful form of social identity—and by doing so, to support that child’s capacity to survive and thrive.

Parents, writes Meadow, “became ‘radical translators’ of the gender order; they leveraged gender expertise gleaned from the fields of education, psychology, medicine, and politics to convert their child’s subjective self-understandings into socially sanctioned forms of identity and personhood. At the same time, they engaged in tremendous emotional labor to present themselves, the primary conduits of expert knowledge, in ways that were culturally assimilable to the people who ran institutions.” Meadow maps various models of parent activism, including work to gain institutional access for children who transition from one category to another, and more radical work to expand the “constellation of options for childhood gender overall.”

If parents are the radical translators of the gender order, they are also the translators of the economic order: queer parenting and precarity parenting both recognize the prescriptive social order even as they work to loosen or undo its shaping power over children’s lives. Activist parents share a need to mitigate emotional and material risks, remaining inside normative social identities even as they attempt to change them: “From engaging in the gathering and tracking of evidentiary support for their parenting practices, to developing nuanced vocabularies for communicating with children and other adults, to the monitoring of their child’s expressive conduct in public, assessing and responding to uncertainty became an automatic feature of how they parented.”

There are few role models for trans kids’ adult identities: “Older transgender people,” writes Meadow, “did not have the same kinds of transitions as contemporary trans youth,” because social discourses of gender (non)conformity have gradually moved backward into childhood. It’s a moon shot for parents fighting for a future for their gender-nonconforming kids, creating social space and personhood in a way that has never before existed. The social category of trans youth is truly new to this generation. It has emerged against the backdrop of a modern economic order in which the stakes of inequality are sharper every year.

“These families are dismantling the sex/gender system as we know it,” writes Meadow. Theirs is a 21st-century story of modernity, told against the backdrop of inequality and uncertainty. It is also a story of agency, with a child’s future happiness and prosperity at stake. Moved by social and economic incentives, parents who were once gatekeepers of the status quo have stepped forward as agents of its potential transformation.

Featured image: Mother and Child (2018). Photograph by Bruno Nascimento / Unsplash. 

  1. Mary Robertson, Growing Up Queer: Kids and the Remaking of LGBTQ Identity(NYU Press, 2018), pp. 5–6.
  2. Doepke and Zilibotti adopt this framework from the developmental psychologist Diana Baumrind. 

This article was commissioned by Caitlin Zaloom.

The Rise of the Audiobook

PUP AudioOnce considered a format predominantly for the visually impaired, audiobooks have become increasingly popular in recent years.  According to Publishing Perspectives, “a six-year trend of double-digit growth in audiobook sales continues in the US [and] … audiobook sales [in 2017] totaled more than $2.5 billion”. In the UK, “audiobook sales are continuing to rocket, with a number of the biggest publishers in the space confirming they are still experiencing “strong double-digit growth” year on year” according to The Bookseller.

In addition to being a publicist in PUP’s European office, I am also a passionate consumer of audiobooks. This has let me to wonder: what has wrought this relatively sudden increase in what many had written off as a dying format, gathering dust in the form of bulky CD box sets? Well, put simply; the smartphone. After Apple released the iPhone, it was possible to have a library of fiction and factual knowledge in your pocket.

The audio industry has kept pace with others when it comes to digitizing content, and a vast array of titles can be downloaded when out and about in a matter of seconds. Most audio consumption is now done through apps, either by a subscription model where you get a certain number of credits per month (from companies such as Audible – Amazon’s audio platform and the biggest in the field – and Libro.fm), from public libraries where you can listen for free but may have to wait for a book (such as Hoopla and OverDrive’s Libby) or on an all-you-can-eat monthly subscription model such as Scribd and Hibooks.

Audiobooks are popular for several reasons: many people find it easier to ingest information aurally rather than visually; you can make your way through the complete works of Dickens whilst doing your weekly housework or other chores; audiobooks are great for driving, exercising and other tasks that couldn’t be done whilst reading a book. There is evidence that some people use the companionship of an audiobook to combat loneliness. I personally find that familiar audiobooks can be very comforting when travelling abroad alone, and can even calm my nerves whilst sitting in the dentist’s chair!                          

Under the leadership of our Digital and Audio Publisher, Kimberley Williams, Princeton University Press embarked on a new audiobook program in 2018, releasing our first in-house audiobook, On the Future: Prospects for Humanity by UK Astronomer Royal Martin Rees and narrated by Samuel West in October. This was followed by Michael Rosen’s edited collection of Workers’ Tales: Socialist Fairy Tales, Fables, and Allegories from Great Britain and a handful of other great titles. One of the joys of audio is finding the right narrator for each book, and we had great fun with Workers’ Tales, casting a wonderful group of narrators, including Samuel West, the inimitable Miriam Margolyes, and Michael Rosen himself.

In December 2018, I was thrilled to travel to Bath to the recording studios of PUP’s audio partner, Sound Understanding. I was there to witness Juliet Stevenson, star of stage and screen and one of the UK’s most beloved audiobook narrators, recording her first audiobook for us, Why Nationalism by Yael Tamir. I was interested to find out how audiobooks are recorded, how a narrator prepares for recording, and whether some books lend themselves to audio more so than others.

I visited the studio on the third day of recording, just as Juliet was finishing up her narration and recording some of the retakes, which allowed her the time to speak with me about the recording process. Juliet explained that these days, they record using the “Rock ‘n’ Roll” method, which means that if you “fluff” your words, you simply start again from the beginning of that sentence or paragraph, and the producer will cut the fluffed line out later on. (This explains the many times I have heard repeated sentences in audiobooks over the years – clearly missed by less vigilant producers!)

As for preparation, Juliet admitted that she doesn’t always finish the book before starting to record, but she always reads the section she is recording beforehand, in order to prepare the tone and rhythm as intended by the author. Then, she says, you have to prepare the characters: “In my head I often cast them . . . I might think of an actor, or I might think of . . . the lollipop lady on the street outside my kids’ school, I might think of a school mum . . . and then I cast him or her in my head, and then it’s a very quick jump” from character to character in a big scene.

Juliet’s main advice to an author writing a book with a view to it being recorded as an audiobook was to “Think about the rhythm of the spoken word . . . maybe when you’re writing, occasionally pick a random paragraph or two or three, and read them out loud and see how the rhythms are working when they’re read out loud . . . think musically”. However, she did not feel entitled to give too much direction to authors as she firmly believes that the role of the narrator is “not to get in the way of the writer . . . not [to] impose your own response to the story in between the writer and the listener . . . You’re delivering it up for the listener. The listener and the writer are the two most important people”.

My visit to the Sound Understanding studios showed how much work goes into making an audiobook; from finding the right narrator in the casting process, to the narrator’s careful preparation and casting of voices for characters, to the careful editing after recording, and much more.

Princeton University Press’s audiobook program is off to a strong start, and we have a great list of titles lined up for audio next season. Kimberley intends to grow PUP’s audiobook publishing year on year, through publishing and licensing, with the aim of making at least 65 books available each year in audio. As a passionate audiobook listener, I am excited about this new chapter in PUP’s publishing, and look forward to consuming many more PUP books in this wonderful format.

The full interview with Juliet Stevenson will be available shortly

–Katie Lewis, Senior Publicist, UK

 

Rebecca Bengoechea on the Guadalajara Book Fair

Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico: the home of mariachi, tequila, and since 1987, the Feria del Libros Internacional (FIL), Latin America’s premier bookfair. This year, PUP’s Rights team were delighted to visit for the first time.

The fair boasts publishers from over 44 countries, from the bigger markets of Argentina, Brazil and of course Mexico, all the way down to Panama, Costa Rica and Uruguay. There were stands converted into bookshops, from the colossal stands of publishers such as Planeta or Fondo de Cultura, to the tiny used and antique English-language book shop. The Guest of Honour this year was Portugal, and we were thrilled to see that there were a number of Portuguese publishers who made the trip. The fair’s professional days of Monday-Wednesday are book-ended by the fair being open to the public, and this dynamic really lent a special atmosphere to the events, with children and enthusiastic students reminding us why we are all in the book business!

Following a visit to Spain back in May where I was able to explore the Spanish market, I was very eager to broaden my scope further to Latin America and the Spanish speaking market. As with PUP’s recent attentions in China, any chance to increase our presence in Latin America goes a long way to making PUP a truly global press.

We were guided by PUP’s new Director for Rights, Contracts, and Permissions, Ines ter Horst, who had attended the fair before and who has extensive contacts in the different markets. We were based in the Rights Centre, but also took meetings on various publisher’s stands, attended some very important wine & empanada (Argentina) and rum & chocolate (Venezuelan/Chilean) networking events, and the wonderful reception at the biggest bookshop in Guadalajara, the Libreria de Carlos Fuentes.

It was an immersive experience; a whirlwind of meetings, receptions, a fantastic programme of talks, food, not to mention the all-important salsa music that lent the fair a truly Latin flavour. Unlike other book fairs such as Frankfurt where our intensive schedules are usually fully-booked months in advance, Guadalajara’s charm was a more relaxed atmosphere that allowed us to capitalise on spontaneous opportunities and meet with people we would otherwise not have encountered. Our days were still filled, but with more in-depth discussions, market research, and crucially invaluable networking that we hope will bear fruit in the years to come.  

The Rights team were there, as with the other annual book fairs we attend, primarily with the aim of meeting with publishers from various countries, promoting our books, and discussing the possibilities for translation licenses. We were also able to wear various other hats during the fair; embracing discussions about the sales and distribution of our English language books, the developments in Print On Demand schemes in Latin America, and listening to news of Spanish language projects that our editors might want to acquire and publish with PUP.

The fair was full of energy, optimism, fun, and the spirit of collaboration. It provided wonderful insights into a vast and vibrant Spanish-speaking ecosystem, perhaps too often neglected by the Anglophone world. The enthusiasm was infectious and we came away filled with excitement, already frantically planning our return next year where we hope to make an even bigger splash.

Larks at Birdfair

As I write, it’s Monday morning after the glorious Birdfair 2018 weekend. I am propping my eyes open with matchsticks and trying to fit back in to the normality of my office job, after a fabulous weekend with the Princeton WILDGuides team, along with thousands of other nature lovers.

In case anyone reading this is not already fully aware of Birdfair, it is the British Birdwatching Fair – the Birdwatching Glastonbury – an annual event for birdwatchers and nature lovers. Set on the nature reserve at Rutland Water, UK, Birdfair offers a packed programme of lectures, events, and talks, and of course hundreds of stands selling the latest products for wildlife enthusiasts: everything from scopes to sculptures, binoculars to bird food, eGuides to eco-holidays.

So, what did we get up to?

As publishers of some of the very best natural history books and field guides of course PUP were there in our usual stand in marquee 5. This year the team were sporting new green T-shirts promoting both the WILDGuides imprint and the newly published How to be an Urban Birder.

We supported our various authors who gave talks in the Author Forum (sponsored jointly by Princeton WILDGuides,

Katrina van Grouw on the lecture stage.

WildSounds bookseller, and Bloomsbury), followed by book signings.

  • David Lindo (How to be an Urban Birder), a charismatic speaker, charmed the audience with tales of urban birding from his childhood to today: watching peregrine falcons over London, eagles flying over Edinburgh, and Bearded Tits in Kensington Gardens.
  • Michael Brooke’s (Far from Land) talk about what seabirds get up to when far from land was riveting and occasionally astonishing – not least when Michael treated us to a bit of a rap about Ross’s Gulls (written by Mark Maftei on a forlorn Arctic island).
  • Katrina van Grouw (Unnatural Selection), always a fascinating speaker, talked to us about evolution, most particularly at the hand of man, accompanied by slides showing her exquisite artwork.

Our Natural History Editor Robert Kirk and our WILDGuides editors Andy Swash and Rob Still (Britain’s Birds) had copious meetings to discuss books – at various stages of gestation. And I managed to meet up with lots of my contacts in the world of wildlife magazines.

Visual proof that we like to start our birdwatchers young!

We also celebrated both the publication of How to be an Urban Birder and our presence at Birdfair with a reception. It was a happy and relaxed gathering of supporters – authors, colleagues, and friends.

As our contribution to the Birdfair raffle we donated a full set of the Britain’s WILDGuides series. This year Birdfair was raising money for the Flamingo Protection programme for Mar Chiquita in Argentina – supporting the creation of Argentina’s largest national park, in the process providing a refuge for nearly a million flamingos and shorebirds.

The marquees are now struck, the WILDGuides team (and the thousands of nature lovers) have dispersed to our various homes happy to know that lots of books were sold (How to be an Urban Birder more or less sold out across the site), old friends were embraced, a lot of contacts were renewed, new contacts were made, plans for new books were hatched, and Princeton University Press’s place in the natural history world remains firmly fixed.

SUMIT 2018: A math collaboration

by C. Kenneth Fan
President and Founder of Girls’ Angle, an organization that connects mentors with girls who love math

For decades, math extracurricular activity in the United States has been dominated by the math competition. I, myself, participated in and enjoyed math competitions when I was growing up. Many school math clubs are centered on math contest prep. Today, there are dozens upon dozens of math competitions. While many students gain much from math competitions, many others, for a variety of good reasons, do not find inspiration in math competitions to do more math, and the best way to learn math is to do math.

When I founded Girls’ Angle over ten years ago, a main task was to create new, non-competitive, mathematically compelling avenues into math that appeal to those who, for whatever reason, may not be so inspired by math competitions. To celebrate the end of our first year, we baked a brownie for the girls, but it wasn’t a rectangular brownie—it was a trapezoid, and nobody could have any brownie until members figured out how to split the brownie into equal pieces for all. We were counting on them to succeed because we wanted brownie!

It became a Girls’ Angle tradition to celebrate the conclusion of every semester with a collaborative math Single Digitspuzzle, and every semester the puzzle has grown more elaborate. It finally dawned on me that these collaborative end-of-session math puzzles could well serve as robust, mathematically-intense, but fully collaborative alternatives to the math competition. To directly contrast the concept with that of the math competition, we called these events “math collaborations.” On January 21, 2012, after 4 years of in-house development, we took the concept out of Girls’ Angle with SUMIT 2012, which took place at MIT in conjunction with MIT’s Undergraduate Society of Women in Mathematics. Then, on March 7, 2012, the Buckingham, Browne, and Nichols Middle School became the first school to host a math collaboration. The success of these events led to annual math collaborations at Buckingham, Browne, and Nichols, and, to date, over 100 other math collaborations at schools, libraries, and other venues, such as Girl Scout troops.

The upcoming SUMIT 2018 is going to be our biggest and best math collaboration ever. For girls in grades 6-10, participants will be put in a predicament from which they must extricate themselves using the currency of the world they’ll find themselves immersed in: mathematics! They must self-organize and communicate well as there will be no one to help them but themselves. It’ll be an epic journey where participants must become the heroines of their own saga.

Should they succeed, they’ll be rewarded with the knowledge of genuine accomplishment—and gifts, such as Marc Chamberland’s captivating book, Single Digits: In Praise of Small Numbers courtesy of long-time SUMIT sponsor Princeton University Press.

The best way to learn math is to do math, and what better way to do math than to do it while laughing out loud and making new friends?

There are a limited number of spots still available for 9th and 10th graders. Register today!

Paul Strode: Teaching The Serengeti Rules

CarrollIn January of 2016 I was asked by Laura Bonetta at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) to write a teacher’s guide for the short film Some Animals Are More Equal than Others: Keystone Species and Trophic Cascades. At the same time, Molecular Biologist Sean B. Carroll, the HHMI Vice President of Science Education, was putting the finishing touches on his new book, The Serengeti Rules. To help expedite my research for writing the teacher’s guide for the short film, Laura sent me a pre-pub copy of the book and suggested I read Chapter Six: “Some Animals Are More Equal than Others.”

Instead of going straight to Chapter Six, I started reading from the beginning.

Before I was even halfway through the first chapter, I thought to myself, this book is going to change the way I teach. At the core of Carroll’s storytelling is the observation that everything is regulated, from molecules to megafauna. Indeed, for most of my career teaching biology I have kept my focus on Theodosius Dobzhansky’s argument that “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.” But Carroll has now made it clear that nothing in biology also makes sense except in the light of regulation.

To make a long story short, I wrote the short film teachers guide with the help of Chapter Six in The Serengeti Rules and immediately followed that task by reviewing the book for The American Biology Teacher so that other teachers might benefit from reading the book. In my review, I argued that The Serengeti Rules “should be required reading for students in all fields of science, but especially those pursuing careers in biology education.” My review caught the attention of Carroll’s editor at Princeton University Press, Alison Kalett. Alison was curious to know if teachers like me that planned to use Carroll’s book to enhance their biology courses would find it useful if educational supplementary materials were made available… for free. Alison and I came up with a plan and I began to write.

The Serengeti Rules came out in March of 2016 and one of Carroll’s first public discussions about the book was at the annual Professional Development Conference of the National Association of Biology Teachers in Providence, Rhode Island. Several hundred teachers showed up to hear from Dr. Carroll and it was standing room only. As word got out that supplementary materials were being prepared for Carroll’s book, inquiries began to pop up on social media.

Carroll

The Educational Supplement was released in May and is a document that a teacher can use immediately in the classroom.

Carroll

The questions come in various styles and are designed to invoke classroom discussion, require students to synthesize and connect various biological concepts, get students to engage with ecological data from the published journal articles, and have students analyze and graph data that relate to what they are reading in The Serengeti Rules. For example, the question below relates to Chapter Four of The Serengeti Rules, “Fat, Feedback, and a Miracle Fungus.” The question can be used as a formative assessment question that marries real data with the nature of science and covers several components of the Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate biology course content.

Carroll

Teachers have already begun planning to use The Serengeti Rules to enhance their courses and since the release of the supplement have expressed their gratitude that it is available and free!

Carroll

And of course, I have assigned The Serengeti Rules as summer reading for my 65 AP/IB biology students and I am looking forward to using the questions in the fall to incite discussion and enhance learning and understanding.

Thank you, Sean B. Carroll, for giving us The Serengeti Rules!

Happy birthday to Anni Albers

Today is Anni Albers’s birthday! Born in Berlin in 1899, she began her studies at the Bauhaus in Weimar when she was 22 years old. Here in the weaving workshop she first began working on the loom and learning her way with threads. Over the course of her 60-year career she would become one of the most innovative and influential textile artists of the 20th century, creating subtle abstract works of art, bold wall hangings, and sophisticated architectural fabrics, in addition to experimental jewelry and prints all tied together in her highly original voice. Albers became an expert on the history of weaving as well as an influential advocate for its future and the potential of new materials. She gathered her findings in her pivotal 1965 book On Weaving. On the occasion of her 118th birthday we’re thrilled to announce a new, expanded, full-color edition of On Weaving, out this September from Princeton University Press and available now by pre-order. Happiest birthday Anni!
 
 

Images: (1) Anni Albers, Europe, 1930-33, photograph by Josef Albers. (2) Cover of the new edition of Anni Albers’s “On Weaving” (3) Anni Albers, Display material sample, 1949, cotton, silk, lurex, and metallic foil. Collection Museum of Modern Art, New York. © 2017 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation/ARS, NY

“The Woodstock of the Mind” Celebrates 30 Years

By Katie Lewis

Nestled among lush-green rolling hills, just on the Welsh side of the Anglo-Welsh border, lies the beautiful sleepy town of Hay-on-Wye (or Y Gelli, to use its Welsh name). With over two dozen bookshops to serve fewer than 2000 permanent residents, Hay has long been known as “the town of books”, and by the late 1970s, became the world’s first official Book Town. A great venue, then, for Britain’s biggest and most famous literary festival. Founded around a kitchen table in 1987, Hay Festival has grown from an exciting idea to a world-class event, drawing writers, actors, artists, politicians, philosophers, scientists, comedians, musicians and crowds numbering 250,000 people, from across the globe. Called “the Woodstock of the mind” by Bill Clinton when he spoke at Hay in 2001, Hay Festival has become a highlight of the literary calendar for many; indeed, the late Tony Benn said that “in my mind it’s replaced Christmas”.

Hay Festival 2017 gets underway. Photo by Mogan Selvakannu

Hay Festival always feels special, but this year there was a buzz in the air, as Hay celebrated its 30th year with a superb line-up of speakers. These included: Bernie Sanders, Eddie Izzard, Jaqueline Wilson, Nick Clegg, Helen Fielding, Victoria Hislop, Jeremy Paxman, Stephen Fry, Peter Singer, Tom Daley, Graham Norton, Simon Schama, Nadya Tolokno (of Pussy Riot), Robert Winston, Colm Tóibín, Tom Hollander, Juliet Stevenson, Tony Robinson, Gillian Tett, Tracey Emin, Martin Rees, Harriet Harman, Tracy Chevalier, Rowan Williams, Paul Cartledge, Neil Gaiman, Richard E. Grant, Germaine Greer, Michael Parkinson, Will Young, Jeremy Bowen, George Monbiot, Will Self, A. C. Grayling, Jim Al-Khalili, Ian Rankin, Michael Sheen, Simon Armitage, John Simpson, Bill Bailey, and many more.

Princeton University Press is proud to be part of Hay Festival each year, and this year we had a wonderful group of authors speaking on a fascinating range of subjects:

Robbert Dijkgraaf, Director of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton and author of The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge, spoke about one of the great paradoxes of scientific research: the search for answers to deep questions, motivated solely by curiosity and without concern for applications, often leads not only to the greatest scientific discoveries but also to the most revolutionary technological breakthroughs. Dijkgraaf’s charisma and humour shone through as he made his large audience laugh with a video of the world’s first robot and reminded us that “without Einstein’s theory, your GPS would be 7 miles out. So, I like to say that without Einstein, we would all be lost”. Dijkgraaf also recorded a special episode of BBC Radio 4’s programme “Inside Science” in front of a live audience at Hay. You can listen again here.

Speaking on a subject of macabre topicality, Gilles Kepel, author of Terror in France: The Rise of Jihad in the West, discussed the topic of his book in relation to Europe as a whole, and the events in Manchester on 22nd May in particular.

Kevin Laland, biologist and author of Darwin’s Unfinished Symphony: How Culture Made the Human Mind gave a fascinating talk highlighting the uniqueness of the human species, and what sets us apart from other animals. He argued that it was the complexity and diversity of human culture that has caused human beings to evolve, and that the success of the human species is down to a ‘whirlpool’ of evolutionary feedback and cultural processes. In other words, human beings are creatures of their own making.

Kevin N. Laland. Photo by Sam J. Peat

Alexander Todorov, author of Face Value: The Irresistible Influence of First Impressions enthralled his audience of almost 2000 people with his digitally constructed images of faces showing characteristics that the human brain (often incorrectly) perceives to denote different personality traits upon first meeting. Did you know that our brains make judgements about a person’s trustworthiness, competence, dominance and other traits within 1/10th of a second? Definitely food for thought…

Roger Penrose, renowned physicist and author of Fashion, Faith, and Fantasy in the New Physics of the Universe did an ‘In Conversation’ event with Marcus du Sautoy. Marcus told us all that Roger was one of his childhood heroes and remembered having heard him lecture in his school days. Their conversation ranged across string theory, dark matter, black holes and sparked some excellent questions from the audience.

Roger Penrose. Photo by Mogan Selvakannu

Finally, Lawrence Bee, author of Britain’s Spiders: A Field Guide, delighted arachnophiles of all ages in his talk on how to recognise some of the 670 species of spiders living in your British back garden. He also brought some live spiders with him on stage, which the audience were able to get a closer look at during his book signing!

Lawrence Bee. Photo by Liam Webb

Hay Festival really is the thinking person’s paradise. Some years, the grass quads swarm with sunbathing readers or people dozing in deck chairs between talks; some years, wellington boots become not just a festival fashion item, but a necessity. But, rain or shine, Hay Festival has a certain magic that’s hard to describe. It’s a bit like the thrill of walking into a great bookshop and finding the authors of a whole host of wonderful books inside, waiting to welcome you and introduce you to the characters and ideas within their pages.

Clips and full talks from Hay Festival 2017 can be viewed on the BBC’s Hay Festival webpage.

Katie Lewis has been a publicist at Princeton University Press’s European office, near Oxford, since 2009.

PUP’s International Rights Director: A booth of one’s own

by Kimberly Williams

I’m taking a moment out of my hectic post-London Book Fair schedule to reflect on what was our busiest ever LBF, at least from an international rights perspective. Not only did we hold a record number of meetings with our publishing partners—among them agents, scouts, and rights managers and editors from international publishing houses—but we had a strong showing from our international colleagues, perhaps most notably our new colleague in China, Lingxi Li and our recently appointed Director for Global Development, Brigitta van Rheinberg. We also found time to connect with our counterparts in international rights, in meetings and at events hosted by the Independent Publishers Guild.

LBF

London Book Fair this time was a little bit special for me. For the first time (for me at least), we hosted our meetings at PUP’s booth, surrounded by our books and posters, and most importantly by our colleagues in sales, publicity, and editorial. Historically we’ve always held our meetings in the International Rights Centre, which was always a little too reminiscent of an examination hall in my mind. But at the booth this year there was a real buzz and our stand was constantly occupied by publishers doing what we do best—getting really rather excited about our books. Our upcoming fall 2017 list was warmly received and we very much hope that we’ll be announcing some new translation deals soon.

In international rights, it’s easy to crunch the numbers and report that we held 65 meetings across three days, that we met people from dozens of countries, and that we will be making literally hundreds of submissions of our books (some of which don’t even exist yet in print or digital format). But in all of that it’s important to remember that what underpins our work is a genuine and shared love of academic publishing, and of our books and authors. The role of the international rights director, in a nutshell, is to communicate that enthusiasm to the right publisher at the right moment.

With all of that in mind, we completely overhauled our rights guide specifically for London Book Fair this year. We wanted to put the author front and centre and think about the international reach of our authors and their scholarship. We worked with colleagues in design, editorial, copywriting, production, and marketing to think about how our rights guide might be used, and by whom. We found through our research that now more than ever it is crucial to communicate information efficiently, and that design is crucial, especially when your audience is not always made up of native speakers.

We’ve somehow dispensed with 150 print copies of our rights guide, so we hope we have hit the mark.

If you’re interested in hearing more from our rights team, you can follow us on twitter at @PUP_Rights.

 

Darrin Pratt: Mission Possible

Colorado

This post by director of the University Press of Colorado and president of the Association of American University Presses Darrin Pratt appears concurrently on the University Press of Colorado blog.

In a previous post, I wrote about the minor miracle continually performed by the membership of the Association of American University Presses, a miracle that involves taking a relatively small annual budget and multiplying that budget until it becomes substantially larger. University presses, I observed, collectively receive an annual budget that would support the publication of roughly 900 scholarly monographs annually, based on an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation–funded ITHAKA S+R study of the average publication cost of a monograph. In reality, university presses create enough additional revenue from the starting budget they are given to produce over 6,000 books annually,1 or roughly seven times the number of books supported directly by their institutional budgets.

In this previous post, I acknowledged the fact that not all of those 6,000 or more titles were scholarly monographs in the narrowest sense of the term. There remained some question regarding the proportion of that combined output that comprised the specialized studies that have been at the core of university press programs from the beginning. Fortunately, thanks again to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, we can now address that question through the data contained in their recently released study, Monograph Output of American University Presses, 2009–2013 by Joseph J. Esposito and Karen Barch.

To wit, over the five-year period covered in the study data collected, university presses published 14,619 scholarly monographs, or an average of 2,924 per year.2 In terms of mission, we collectively published over three scholarly monographs annually for every one book that we were actually paid to produce.3 And as Esposito and Barch’s data indicate, monographic title output as a percentage of total title output was 49 percent from 2009 to 2013 for the sixty-five presses that reported to the study.4 

Our value proposition, however, gets even better if you consider expanding beyond the definition of monograph employed by the study authors. The study defined monographs as “books which are written by scholars and researchers and which are intended primarily for other scholars and researchers” (using John Thompson’s definition in Books in the Digital Age),5 but excluded books that are “collections of essays, even if the essays are all by a single author.” In certain fields, particularly emerging fields and subfields, edited collections of essays that constitute original scholarship are quite common. If we use Thompson’s original definition, without excluding edited collections, my own press’s 2009–2013 output of original scholarly works as a percentage of the total jumps from 42% to 67% (from data returned to University Press of Colorado by Esposito and Barch).

Although I only have my own press data at hand, most press directors estimate a similar proportion of their list is made up of original scholarship, somewhere between 67 and 75 percent, as noted by Esposito and Barch.6 If, let’s say, roughly 70 percent of our combined output is, in fact, original works of scholarship more broadly defined, then we collectively publish almost five works of original scholarship for every one work we are given the budget to produce.7

As for the other 30 percent? Although they are not necessarily publications of primary or original scholarship, most—albeit not quite all—are all nonetheless built upon primary or original scholarship and communicate more broadly to students and the public the knowledge being generated every day by researchers at colleges and universities across the country. This other 30 percent includes textbooks, crossover titles that inform public debate on important policy questions, regional history and natural history titles, and important reference works, all of which do more than their fair share to ensure that we can multiply one paid-for work of original scholarship into five.

Of course, the previous paragraph suggests that the titles that are in this “other” 30 percent are published more for money than mission, with the further implication that they have little to contribute to research agendas in their fields. And, truth be told, university presses will occasionally publish coffee table books, cookbooks, or the like with the primary intention of bringing in revenue to support their scholarly publishing programs. But the vast majority of all books published by university presses are mission-driven products that have been rigorously peer-reviewed, including our text, crossover, and regional titles that sometimes make substantial scholarly contributions. As Peter Dougherty and Al Bertrand have written elsewhere, in 1922 Princeton University Press published a book of public lectures delivered the previous year. The work was not a monograph in the strict sense: rather, it was a scholarly work since read by generations of scientists and nonscientists alike. The lecturer was Albert Einstein, and the book was The Meaning of Relativity.

In the final analysis, whether we consider monographs as only those works narrowly defined by Esposito and Barch, expand our definition of original scholarship (following Thompson), or include other publications like crossover books, textbooks, or regional titles, the fact is that university presses play a vital role in cultivating and distributing works of serious scholarship. In a world of alternative facts and fake news, we continue to carry the torch for research, for scholarship, for facts, and for truth.


1. The source of the figure cited here is the 2012–2015 Annual Operating Statistics Survey of the Association of American University Presses and compiles data from sixty-seven reporting presses excluding Cambridge and Oxford. Esposito and Barch’s report also excludes title output data from Cambridge and Oxford. Return to text.

2. Joseph J. Esposito and Karen Barch, Monograph Output of American University Presses, 2009–2013: A Report Prepared for the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation (2017), 32 (data table). Return to text.

3. 2,924 ÷ 900 = 3.25. Return to text.

4. Don’t go looking for the 49 percent figure in the Esposito and Barch report, because you will not find it there. The number can be calculated, however, using the data they present. I derived the 49 percent by dividing the total number of monograph editions published (28,625) by the total number of all editions published (58,555). I excluded Esposito and Barch’s extrapolations from the original data in making this calculation. See Esposito and Barch, Monograph Output, 32 (data table). Return to text.

5. John Thompson, Books in the Digital Age: The Transformation of Academic and Higher Education Publishing in Britain and the United States (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2005), 103. Return to text.

6. See the discussion of university press estimates in Esposito and Barch, Monograph Output, 41. Return to text.

7. (6,000 × 70%) ÷ 900 = 4.67. Note that the Esposito and Barch do not de-duplicate total editions to drill down to the total books published in the same fashion that they de-duplicate editions to derive unique (“primary”) monographs published. Their report therefore contains no total unique/primary books published figure. That said, their data strongly suggests that number to be an average of roughly 6,000 (5,984) unique books per year. This number is an estimate drawing from the data table on page 32, where the proportion of unique monographs to monograph editions is 14,619/28,625, or 51.1%. Presuming a similar proportion of books/editions in the total figure, 51.1% × 58,555 total editions = 29,922 unique books ÷ 5 years = 5,984 unique books annually. Return to text.