University Presses React to Soft Economy

Most university presses are realizing a decline in revenue in this current economic climate. But rather than whine about it, some are seeing opportunity. Of those, the press at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is taking opportunity to the next level: action. The answer? eBooks.

In today’s soft economy, the eBook system has acted as a way out of financial shortcomings. According to Rebecca Schrader, Assistant Director of Finance of MIT Press, a large portion of the university press’ e-book sales comes from users of the Amazon Kindle, a portable e-book reader that has access to over 250,000 books.

According to Schrader, university presses throughout the country have experienced similar declines in sales. A recent survey published by the American Association of University Presses estimates an average 10 percent loss in sales and revenue between July and December 2008.

As a result of declining earnings, university presses are also starting to take different approaches to their business models.

And MIT isn’t alone in their need to shift focus from print only to print+eBook publishing. Yale, Cornell, and the University of Michigan Press also plan to cut back and increase their eBook publishing programs.

While it’s no surprise that text book publishers are heading toward broader eBook publishing initiatives quicker than the general book publishing industry, what university presses learn along the way will be of great help to the big houses in NYC and others around the country. That is, if they’re paying attention.

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