The Utah State University Press will merge with another academic publisher, ensuring its survival in the face of severe budget pressures at the Logan campus. Although the press' assets will be transferred to the University Press of Colorado, its editorial operations will continue to operate out of USU's Merrill-Cazier Library, publishing books under its old imprint.
"We have always believed that a key to survival for a small university press is to remain flexible, responsive to changing realities and open to self-reinvention," said Michael Spooner, director for USU Press. "In Colorado, we found a partner with not only a similar commitment to the mission of scholarly publishing, but with a compatible organizational style."
UPC is a stand-alone nonprofit sponsored by a Boulder-based consortium of eight dues-paying Colorado institutions. It is one of six regional university press consortia in the nation. USU will become its ninth member, joining the likes of University of Colorado, Fort Lewis College and Adams State College.
The Colorado consortium came together in the 1960s as a way to reduce publishing costs associated with books that are rarely profitable, but play a critical role in the region's cultural and scholarly life and scientific concerns.
"Rather than having eight institutions with separate presses, we have eight institutions funding one joint press," UPC director Darrin Pratt said. "When you are small you have a lot of business issues you are on the wrong side of. Creating economies of scales will be important for the future of small university presses."
UPC does about $1 million in a year in sales and has operated in the black since 2006, according to Pratt. It released 28 titles last year, including The End of Time 2012, a briskly selling book about Mayan prophesy. A growing share of its output is in digital formats, which Pratt expects will double or triple in sales this year. About 20 percent of its budget is covered by member-institution dues.
USU Press will continue releasing books under its banner, but UPC will handle all administrative and production tasks and Spooner will become a Logan-based UPC employee.
"While the internal structure will be different, there will be little or no change for readers and authors and other constituencies," said USU libraries dean Richard Clement.
USU trustees approved the press arrangement on March 2. As a new member of the consortium, USU will get to name three representatives, including Clement, to the UPC board. Utah State's Scholarly Publications Committee will continue to provide editorial direction for the Utah imprint, but final editorial control is expected to reside with the UPC board.