Published with Assistance

Although I’m somewhat aware of the poor financial state many university presses find themselves in, I never really thought of publishing as  a charitable cause. This is no doubt a failure of imagination and observation on my part. After all, university presses are nonprofit organizations, so why shouldn’t people donate money to them to publish books, much like how people donate money to libraries buy those books? That said, it took Ray D. Madoff’s Immortality and the Law: The Rising Power of the American Dead for me to recognize what was probably obvious to everybody else.

Is publishing a charitable cause?

As you can see, the book is published “with assistance” from a memorial fund. In a way, academic publishing by university presses, with few exceptions, have always been subsidized, assisted affairs. The publishing houses may enjoy more or less direct money transfers from their home institutions, but all of them benefit from free/reduced operational expenses (rent, utilities, back lists built from previous, more generous & subsidized times) and the reputation spillover from the universities. Despite this assistance, the university publishing units remain in financial straits and all seem to be clamoring for new sources of revenues. Do you think this turn to private, charitable donations for publishing individual projects — if it is indeed a new feature — is a part of their revamped business models?
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PS. Immortality and the Law is an exceptionally informative and interesting book. Ms. Tew spent her money well.

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