AAUP 2010: Why I Sent My Entire Staff

During my first year working in university press publishing (1991), I attended a Midwest Presses meeting hosted by my employer, Indiana University Press. Little did I know that this opportunity would not be repeated as often as I would have liked.  I did not show my face at another AAUP meeting until Western Presses in 1998 in Berkeley, and I have had only infrequent opportunities to network with and learn from my colleagues at other presses since then.

Nevertheless, every AAUP conference I have attended has been extremely valuable, because of the lessons learned, the connections made, and the reminder that the difficult issues we face we do not face alone. Because I’ve always garnered much from these gatherings, I would like to send someone from my staff every year. Unfortunately, I have only been able to do so twice since 2000, both times sending our marketing manager. Justifying the cost of this fantastic resource is difficult for a press with limited resources.

So I was excited to hear that the annual meeting was going to be held in Salt Lake City, only an eight-hour drive from the Denver area. That may sound like a long trip to you folks from the East Coast, Midwest, or South, but when you live in a big Western state, any other major conference-hosting city is often at least that far away. Here was an opportunity to take my entire staff at a reasonable cost (because who knows when we might next afford the trip for just one), if, of course, I could convince everyone to spend hours together in a car and to share hotel rooms. Fortunately, the five of us get along well, so the prospect was only moderately horrifying and my staff was amenable to the plan.

Happily, the trip was well worth our time and efforts. My hat is off to the program committee for concocting one of the most energized and practical programs for dealing with the changing landscape of publishing, one that focused on moving us forward instead of looking back at what we (think we) have lost. For those of us at Colorado, this was the perfect opportunity to contextualize our efforts to adjust to the changes wrought by our increasingly digital world—and to get some great ideas from our many peers creatively addressing the same issues.

One big problem with working in publishing out West is that, as noted above, you’re a long way from anywhere most of the time. Presses like Colorado don’t get many opportunities to talk shop with other like-minded scholarly publishers in a face to face setting. You can start to feel isolated and unsure of the path you are taking, particularly in the turbulent publishing climate we all face today. So hearing what others were doing with respect to e-book sales and delivery, XML workflow and conversion, and the like was both reassuring (none of us have all the answers just yet) and stimulating (there’s more than one way to skin a digital cat).

As it turns out, the trip was not without incident—one of our cars broke down on the drive westward. Even so, we all are glad to have had the opportunity to attend this meeting and hope to have many more opportunities to do so again. Speaking on behalf of everyone at Colorado, we’re ready for our next road trip!

Darrin Pratt
Director, University Press of Colorado