By Nancy Koeneman As the laurels and opportunities pile at its door, the UI Press faces the same struggles as university presses across the country. "Generally, scholarly publishing in the past decade has run into difficult times," said Richard Wentworth, director of the UI Press. "As college and university library budgets are reduced, so is the sale of scholarly monographs, something that university presses have done for the most part." Over the past several years, sales of monographs have dropped about 40 percent, he said. And the economics of publishing make it difficult, if not impossible, to print as many monographs as in the past. As the print runs drop and the prices of these monographs rise, the problem perpetuates itself. This isn't just a dilemma for the publisher, Wentworth said. Faculty members, especially in the humanities and social sciences, are going to find it increasingly difficult to publish their scholarly works. Because being published is such a key criteria in consideration for promotion and tenure, university press problems could create a predicament for the academic community. A partial solution sits on the desk of everyone at any technologically competent institution - the computer. "This will lead to - eventually - monographs made available in electronic format," Wentworth said. "Though no one wants to read on-screen, it may be the only way available." The UI Press is holding strong, despite the changing tide. "At this time when monographs are in serious trouble, most presses our size and larger are continuing to operate with income in pretty good shape," Wentworth said. "Several presses have had to cut back substantially and won't survive much past this decade. They might not continue unless support improves. But most of us are still in good shape." While it might not continue to publish the same amount of scholarly work it once did, the UI Press is continuing to explore new publishing opportunities to keep up with changes in the field. A half-dozen CD-ROM publishing projects are in the works, although not all have been approved by the UI Press Board. A major Civil War bibliography on CD-ROM is in development and will include 1,100 works on the Civil War. It is slated to be released in conjunction with a book version. This is an area the UI Press will continue to investigate. "Reference books lend themselves most recently to electronic publishing. What you will see happen in the future is that this will be done with journals in addition to reference books and eventually, monographs also,"Wentworth said. The UI Press was established by the UI Board of Trustees on June 17, 1918, and was responsible for all printed materials put out by the university, which included bulletins and catalogs, Wentworth said. Publishing scholarly monographs became the focus in the 1940s, but was primarily for series edited by faculty scholars. After World War II, the press also began publishing books for a more general audience. The first director of the UI Press was H.E. Cunningham, who served until 1948 and also held the post of secretary of the board of trustees. Wilbur Schramm, the director from 1948 to 1952, left his mark as the press began to expand its scope. He helped develop books in communication that were influential for many years, Wentworth said. Two of those books are still in print. Miodrag Muntyan was director from 1952 to 1978. "Among the many important developments during these years was the initial publication of what became known as 'new math,' under the direction of Max Beberman, and the issue of 'The Illinois Test of Psycholinguistic Ability,' by Samuel Kirk, Winifred Kirk and James J. McCarthy," Wentworth said. The test was widely used throughout the country for most of a decade, "which brought in more than half the press's income in the mid-70s." "[The UI Press] didn't start developing its current sense of scholarly publishing until after World War II," Wentworth said. "Its largest development was in the 1960s, which is true for most university presses." Wentworth came to the UI Press in 1970 as associate director and editor-in-chief. He became director in 1979. The UI Press now produces 110 books and 12 journals a year. The press is celebrating its 25th year of publishing poetry. A University Press Board overseees the press and includes faculty members from the UI's Urbana-Champaign and Chicago campuses as well as representatives of the graduate colleges from each campus. Representation from the UI's Springfield campus will be added soon, Wentworth said. In 1978 Wentworth said in an interview that traditional emphasis of the press was "scholarly works that have limited appeal to nonscholarly readers." But even then, he discussed the fact that some books were published with subsidies from outside the press to decrease the deficits such publishing incurs. Now, as in the past, many of the UI Press' poetry collections have support from organizations such as the National Endowment for the Arts and the Illinois Arts Council. A staff of 35 people works at University Press Building, 1325 S. Oak, Champaign. The UI Press moved to that site in 1993. The staff includes acquisition editors; marketing, advertising, and publicity managers; art director; copywriters; graphic designers; as well as those who handle subsidiary rights. Order processing is handled at an east-coast company, and UI Press books are distributed to general and university bookstores. Commissioned salespeople sell UI Press books across the United States. About a dozen books a year from the UI Press do fairly well in general book stores, Wentworth said. In a recent article in "The Chronicle of Higher Education," the UI Press was listed as one of many university publishers that have discount sales on its books to clear some of its inventory. "This isn't anything at all unusual," Wentworth said. "Almost all presses have this kind of sale occasionally." In its last sale, nearly 300,000 catalogs were distributed and nearly 40,000 books were sold, creating more than $300,000 in gross revenues. Wentworth agreed with representatives of other university presses who said this helps clear warehouse space of books that aren't moving as quickly as they should. Wentworth rates the UI Press at the bottom of the top 12 in size out of a field of 95 university presses in operation. The UI Press is second to Indiana in size in the Big Ten, he said. For the UI Press, the solution to decreasing income from the sales of scholarly works is publishing more popular books with classroom potential, Wentworth said. The UI Press plans to focus on its strengths, and capitalize on them. Books on American social history - which include African-American subjects, women's subjects, labor history and ethnic history - are the most solid producers for the UI Press. "We have substantial lists in American social history because of longstanding series edited by some of the best scholars in the field. That's also true of American popular music. We have the strongest program of any school press in African-American history," Wentworth said. Attracting top-notch authors is a matter of publishing outstanding work, he said. "Good books bring in more good books in the same subject area," he said. The UI Press acquisition editors also attend more than 40 academic meetings a year on subjects such as history, music, political science, sociology, philsophy, anthropology, religion, folklore and literature. "They get acquainted with scholars working in these fields and look for leads on promising manuscripts," Wentworth said. On the UI Press's list of 12 journals are a one-of-a-kind journal on children's books called The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and two journals on music - Enthonmusicology and American Music. The combination of market forces and university support could make or break university presses in the next several years. "We've been fortunate in our support," Wentworth said. The UI Press isn't independent, receiving about 10 percent of its budget from the UI. The power of the press - in this case university presses - and market forces could lay siege to the firmly entrenched methods college and university departments use to evaluate their faculty members for promotion and tenure. "I would say people are going to change how they decide who deserves tenure and promotion. If the decision is based on publishing, there isn't sufficient economic consideration," Wentworth said. "Books won't be published in the traditional way. [Departments] will need to judge the quality and significance of the work of young faculty in a more substantive way. The market plays a larger part than it should, or has in the past." Best Sellers ------------- Best sellers for university presses are in a different league from popular best sellers. Danielle Steele might sell millions of copies of her books in hardcover and paperback; university presses might consider 6,000 copies sold a best seller. These are the UI Press best sellers. Recent best sellers 1) A World War II naval history,"Thunder Below" by Eugene Fluckey. 16,600 copies sold since 1992. 2) A book of photography, "Surrational Image" by Scott Mutter. 10,130 copies sold since 1992. 3) "This Terrible Sound" by Peter Cozzens, a Civil War title. 8,068 copies sold since 1992. 4) A book of poems, "My Alexandria" by Mark Doty. 7,400 copies sold since 1993. 5) "Politics for People," by David Matthews, political science. 6,000 copies sold since 1994. Other "bests" Best-selling book: "Their Eyes Were Watching God," by Zora Neale Hurston, 350,000 copies. Best-selling book originated at the UI: "Four Theories of the Press," by Fredrick S. Siebert, Theodore Peterson and Wilbur Schramm. Published in the 1950s, paperback reprinted more than 15 times. Has sold 81,000 copies and continues to be in print. Best-selling book that originated at the UI in the past 20 years: "Pissing in the Snow and Other Ozark Folktales," by Vance Randolph. 52,000 copies sold in the UI Press paperback edition, 9,800 in the cloth edition and more than 200,000 in the Avon paperback edition. Biggest money-maker: "Illinois Test of Psycholinguistic Abilities," done in 1968. 80,000 sold, with income of $600,000. Biggest money-maker in books: "Black Leaders of the Twentieth Century," edited by John Hope Franklin and August Meier. Since 1982 has sold 17,300 cloth editions, for income of $237,000, and 30,300 paperback copies for income of $203,000. Most successful monograph: "Down by the Riverside," by Charles Joyner, a MillerComm speaker in February. 24,000 paper copies sold and 7,000 cloth editions sold. Most successful translation: "Peasants of Laguedoc," by Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie. 11,000 copies sold. This monograph was recently named one of the 100 most important books published since World War II. Recent books that have sold well and gained much notice: "Local People," by John Dittmer, and "The Inner World" of Abraham Lincoln, by Michael Burlingame. And the winners are... ------------------------ Books from the UI Press won more than 30 awards in 1994-95. A complete listing of the books can be found in the UI Press home page at http://www.uiuc.edu/providers/uipress/awards.html. A few award-winning books and and the plaudits they've earned: "Local People: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi" By John Dittmer * Bancroft Prize in American History * Lillian Smith Book Award, Southern Regional Council * McLemore Prize, Mississippi Historical Society "My Alexandria" (poetry) By Mark Doty * National Book Critics Circle Award * Whiting Writers' Award * Los Angeles Times Book Award in Poetry * 1993 National Book Award Finalist "Southern Labor and Black Civil Rights: Organizing Memphis Workers" By Michael K. Honey * Charles S. Syndor Award, Southern Historical Association * James A. Rawley Prize, for the Best Book on Civil Rights and Race Relations, Organization of American Historians "Family, Church, and Market: A Mennonite Community in the Old and the New Worlds, 1850-1930" By Royden K Loewen * Albert B. Corey Prize, sponsored jointly by the American Historical Association and the Canadian Historical Society "Sociology and the Race Problem: The Failure of a Perspective" By James B. McKee * Distinguished Publication Award, American Sociological Association * Scholarly Achievement Award, North Central Sociological Association "The Fabulists French,Verse Fables of Nine Centuries" By Norman R. Shapiro * Outstanding Translation of the Year, American Literary Translators Association "Going to Cincinnati: A History of the Blues in the Queen City" By Steven C. Tracy * Award for Excellence in Recorded Jazz, Blues, or Gospel, Association of Recorded Sound Collections "Discrimination by Design: A Feminist Critique of the Man-Made Environment" By Leslie Kanes Weisman * Outstanding Book, Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Human Rights in the United States * Creative Achievement Award, Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture "Traveling the High Way Home, Ralph Stanley and the World of Traditional Bluegrass Music" By John Wright * Print Media Personality of the Year, International Bluegrass Music Association "Social Politics: International Studies in Gender, State and Society" Editors: Barbara M. Hobson, Sonya Michel, and Ann Shola Orloff * One of Library Journal's 10 best journals of 1994 Items of note -------------- * International subscriptions to journals published by the UI Press are at an all-time high, an indication that these publications are recognized worldwide for their scholarly value. * Film and television have bought the options to six UI Press books and translation rights have been sold to the French, the British and the Japanese for another six books.