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Indie Presses on Campuses

This PW article by Judith Rosen actually came out last, but I got so busy with life—and the BTBA longlist write-ups—that I never had a chance to post about it . . .

Entitled “Indie Presses Find a Home on Campuses,” the piece focuses on the handful of presses located on university campuses, what the advantages are the presses and the universities, and how this model functions.

When South End Press relocated from Cambridge, Mass., to the Brooklyn campus of Medgar Evers College of the City University of New York last fall, it joined a handful of presses that have formed partnerships with universities. In some cases, these presses have been launched by academic institutions, which have created such imprints as Open Letter at the University of Rochester or Apprentice House at Loyola University in Baltimore. No matter the ownership, these houses more closely resemble indie presses like Akashic Books than traditional university presses with their more scholarly bent and editorial boards. [. . .]

Campus presses can strengthen existing academic and outreach programs as well as assist universities in developing new ones. When poetry publisher Alice James Books began forging what has grown into a 15-year relationship with the University of Maine at Farmington, it coincided with the university’s decision to offer a B.F.A. in creative writing. “The B.F.A. program existed a few years before Alice James came along, but we were fairly close on the heels, and definitely helped shape the program into what it is today,” said executive director Carey Salerno. This summer the press will participate in a new University of Maine at Farmington program for younger students, a weeklong writing camp for high schoolers.

There’s a section about Open Letter, Three Percent, and the University of Rochester’s translation programs as well, pointing out the various ways the Press and academic programs are intertwined.

It’s interesting to me how many non-university presses there are at universities these days—including a few that I wasn’t previously aware of, such as Ahsahta Press and Apprentice House. There’s a long article that could be written here about the fall of the current publishing model and how this arrangement offers hope for the future of literary publishing. . . . But that’s for another day. In the meantime, one book that really gets into this issue, and is definitely worth checking out, is The Business of Books by Andre Schiffrin.



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