Of the approximately 140 university presses across the United States, Bucknell University Press has one of the most distinguished reputations of them all — a fact that's well-known in scholarly press circles. That stature got another recent endorsement after Rutgers University approached Bucknell about combining its operations with their own press, a partnership that will bring down costs as well as boost the profile of Bucknell's press offerings.
"The benefits are uniformly positive and very much to our advantage," said Greg Clingham, press director and professor of English, after the deal was announced in June. "We're very excited about it."
Under the agreement, Rutgers University Press will take over printing the publications of the Bucknell University Press as well as marketing and advertising functions, while Bucknell will retain complete editorial control in choosing, editing and designing its books. Clingham noted that the process is not a merger but a partnership that benefits both parties equally.
"For Rutgers, this adds a dimension to their profile because of our own incredibly distinguished reputation in the fields we publish in, and because our list complements rather than duplicates Rutgers' list," Clingham said. "For us, we remain autonomous — and in fact will have more control over our own process — while benefitting from lower prices for both buyers and the press."
Bucknell will have more involvement with all stages of publication, Clingham said, from acquisition to pre-print preparation to sending files to the printer, which is desirable from an editorial perspective. Rutgers also will benefit from an increased economy of scale: Going from about 120 books per year to about 150 will enable it to command a greater presence in the market. Bucknell's books previously were printed by Rowman & Littlefield, which specializes in scholarly books and journals for the academic market, as well as trade books.
The partnership was born in summer 2016, when Rutgers approached Bucknell about the possibility of merging their press operations. Clingham and Managing Editor Pam Dailey were invited to Rutgers, along with several others, to visit their offices and meet the staff and administrators at the New Jersey school's press.
"They were very enthusiastic and energetic about us joining them, and we liked the potential benefits very much," Clingham said.
Those benefits go beyond the physical printing of books, he added. Rutgers will invest resources into printing Bucknell's publications, as well as distribution, storage, creating electronic versions, advertising, and showcasing them at conferences and conventions.
Bucknell's press also will have, for the first time in its history, control over intellectual property and author contracts, but more importantly, influence on the pricing structure of its publications. This means list prices will decrease significantly, Clingham said — hardcover books that now retail for up to $110 will drop to between $35 and $45, and paperbacks that sell for $55 will fall to about $25. Figures like these are a clear benefit to buyers, and both Bucknell and Rutgers are expecting them to translate into better sales.
"Circumstances have become tighter over the last 20 years, and profit margins that commercial printing companies are expected to meet are becoming increasingly higher," Clingham said. "With our Rutgers partnership, we won't have to meet sales goals just to sell books, and we'll be able to place more emphasis on the scholarly value of what we produce."
Students, faculty and staff also will see this benefit of the partnership in the form of a 40 percent discount on all formats — hardcover, paperback and digital — of both Bucknell's and Rutger's entire catalogue of publications. Rutgers also will offer free digital versions of Bucknell's catalogue through the Bertrand Library, something that Clingham said Rutgers "doesn't even do for their own collection."
Clingham also said that the University's books will be "much more discoverable," as Rutgers is "very effective on disseminating metadata information on their publications." Bucknell's books already are distributed in Europe and the United Kingdom, but they now will have a larger distribution channel. Rutgers' university press also attends several large-scale international book fairs, such as those in London and Frankfurt, and Bucknell's publications will be displayed there as well.
Clingham believes the partnership is a shrewd move for both universities — not only as a cost-saving measure, but also because it safeguards the quality and continuity of academic publications.
"Scholarly publishing always has been and will continue to be an essential component of higher education," Clingham said. "The belief in peer review and the opinion of experts is vital to the production of scholarship and knowledge, and it's one of the reasons why Bucknell's press has survived for nearly half a century. We take that very seriously and it's given us and Bucknell itself an excellent reputation in return. This partnership will allow that reputation to continue and become even stronger."