Ohio State University Press

                                   Two new books out on the Ohio State University Press.

I recently wrote a profile of the Ohio State university press for the Lantern. It's located somewhere out in the Siberia of west campus and diligently and unassumedly goes about its business of publishing fine fare for the literary critics of the world. The books above are departures for the lit-based press: "The Freshwater Mussels of Ohio" and a book of William S. Burroughs' unpublished papers straight out of OSU's special collections. My sister used to work at the press about a decade ago and from all accounts enjoyed it. I found the staff to be insightful, gregarious, hilarious, etc. The MP3 of our conversation is here. I speak with Malcolm Litchfield - the Director, Jennifer Forsythe - the Production Manager, Jason Gray - the Journals Manager, and Laurie Avery the Marketing Director.

The story is after "the jump." It begins with a "Hey, doesn't reading suck?" lead to properly connect with the OSU community.

It’s hard enough to get people to read books, let alone buy them. So what business would take the risk of publishing a book with a title like “Body Against Soul: Gender and Sowlehele in Middle English Allegory?”

The Ohio State University Press would.

University presses, like OSU’s, publish academic books without worrying about turning a profit. There are over 150 university presses in the United States and the majority are subsidized by their parent universities. Because of university funding, these presses can publish material with scholarly value – even if it doesn’t sell well.

Ohio State’s press is smaller than most university presses. It publishes three journals and approximately thirty books a year.

Over the past six years the press has developed a focus on literary studies and linguistics. However, the press occasionally releases books like “The Freshwater Mussels of Ohio,” a science textbook on an important topic for OSU researchers.

The press developed a focus to help distinguish itself from competitors and to create a possible area of prestige for Ohio State. Many university presses have a specialization – Purdue’s is veterinary medicine while Yale’s is art and architecture.

OSU’s press does not exist to publish scholars from just OSU.

Instead the press finds a variety of authors by visiting academic conferences, seeing who is publishing interesting papers and by talking to leaders in the field.

“It’s like doing an ethnography of the discipline. We are interested in who academics think is important and what topics they care about. Then we try to find the best work that fits the demand we are perceiving,” Press Director Malcolm Litchfield said.

Once the press finds a promising manuscript a proof is made. The proof then goes through several edits. Then in-house designers choose the font and layout. Freelance graphic artists design the book covers. The press takes pride in its book design, which it uses to lure in scholars deciding where to publish.

“We want our covers to sell our books to audiences and potential authors. We want authors to think, hey, they do a nice job with the look of their books,” Production Manager Jennifer Forsythe said.

But there is a limit to how lavish their designs can be.

“If you’re Sarah Palin’s book designer you could put moose hide or lipstick on each book and you would have money to do that. We don’t have the money to do lipstick or moose hides,” Litchfield said.

Still, the press takes special care when selecting the type of paper to print on.

Almost all presses print on archival paper suitable for conservation, Litchfield said. This is because academic books are supposed to last for a longer time than a paperback mystery in the grocery aisle.

When the book is fully edited and designed a file is created and sent to the printer. The printer programs its machines with the file and a print run of 600 to 700 books are made.

In a comic twist for the Ohio State University Press, many of the suitable printers are located in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

“We call them the Ann Arbor five,” said Forsythe.

After the books are printed, they are sent to the University of Chicago Press to be distributed nationally.

In addition to book publishing, the press sponsors two yearly literary contests - The Ohio State University Prize in Short Fiction and The Ohio State University Press/
The Journal Award in Poetry.

To order books and to view the 80 books available for free digitally, visit: www.ohiostatepress.org.

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