Penn Press, founded in 1869, has long since held its own in the field of academic publishing. The press prints about 500 copies of over 70 different books each year, on everything from anthropology to women's studies. But while the Penn Press is located right on campus, many University professors choose to publish elsewhere because other publishers' offer more money and prestige. And few students on campus have ever even heard of Penn Press. The Press, like other university publishers nationwide, often finds itself fighting against more famous and prolific presses, like those at the University of Chicago and Harvard University, both of which attract manuscripts from the nation's top faculty. Harvard publishes over 150 books a year specializing in history, literature, economics, and science, while Chicago publishes a whopping 275 books on a wide range of subjects while receiving over 2500 each year. "If you have a book, and there's a series somewhere else, it's more prestigious for you to publish your book in that series," said Ann Matter, professor and chairperson of the Religious Studies Department, who has published both with Penn Press and with another company. But many said that they can make more money publishing with other companies who have larger advertising sections and who distribute to a wider section of book stores. "I publish, whenever possible, with trade companies because I can make more money," said Roger Abrahams, professor of Folklore and Folklife and board member of Penn Press. "They have a much more aggressive marketing strategy for selling books than do university presses." Both Harvard and Chicago presses are quick to note ,however, Penn Press as being both a respected and quality publishing company. "Penn Press has a good reputation," said Aida Donald, editor-in-chief of Harvard University Press. "The press shares in the University's glory and enhances it." One way the Penn Press has improved its standing in publishing circles has been to concentrate on certain fields, such as the middle ages and folklore. Often times, the Penn Press can "steal" books away from other companies simply on the basis of its reputation in these fields. And according to Thomas Rotell, director of Penn Press, he has been able to be more selective in the books that they publish. "I'd say we get about 70 manuscripts a month," said Rotell. "Ninty-eight or even 99 percent of them we reject but once in a while, we find a real gem. But don't expect to see Penn Press books on best-seller lists either. Many of the books published by the press are scholarly texts that sell about 500 copies. "We want to publish books that make a contribution to scholarship," Rotell said. "Most of our books aren't 'trade' books like those published by someone like Random House." The huge costs for publishing books also contributes to the low volume of books that the Press publishes. "To publish our kind of book can cost us almost $100,000," added Rotell. "We're a break-even organization. If we could make money, then we wouldn't be in business because our job is to publish books that won't make a lot of money." Although most students never realize that the Unversity has its own publishing company, they are not surprised to find out. "I guess I'm not really surprised," said College freshman Christina Kononenko. "I mean if Harvard has one, we should have one too." The Press staff understands the reasons for its anonymity but quickly asserts its importance in the University. "Students might not know of us," Rotell added. "But we are a window to the world for Penn and the quality of the things we publish is a reflection on the University as an institution."Comments powered by Disqus
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