The University of Missouri Press, founded in 1958, will close up shop, university system President Timothy M. Wolfe announced Thursday. In its 54 years in operation, it has published approximately 2,000 titles.
The University of Missouri Press has published books on the topics of American and world history; intellectual history; biography; journalism; African American studies; women's studies; American, British, and Latin American literary criticism; political science, particularly philosophy and ethics; regional studies of the American heartland; and creative nonfiction. It has hosted a lecture series. Its published nonfiction series includes "The Collected Works of Langston Hughes" and "Mark Twain and His Circle." A recent release is "On Soldiers and Statesmen" by John S.D. Eisenhower, son of President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
In 2009, the press' staff was cut almost in half. According to Missouri's Columbia Daily Tribune, 10 employees will be affected when operations begin shutting down in July; the press' staff reportedly had been unaware of the coming closure before Thursday morning.
When the recession hit in 2008, it adversely affected many state budgets and put many university presses on the chopping block. In 2009, the Louisiana State University Press was among them, but it survived after a public show of support, although with significant budget cuts. The following year, Eastern Washington University, the University of Scranton and Southern Methodist University announced the closure of their presses. Last year, the University of California Press announced it would stop publishing its poetry series.
The University of Missouri's provost, Brian Foster, explained that the university is hoping to find new ways to invest in scholarly communications:
"Technological changes have turned media up on their head, and that's turning scholarly communication on its head," he said. "It's more than publishing a book; it's a much broader change."
Communication, he said, is "central to successful research, but given how the system is in such fundamental change, we just don't know where it's going."
The path forward may be hard to discern. Rice University launched a digital-only scholarly publishing venture in 2006 -- which it closed down in 2010. "The demise of the project," wrote Inside Higher Ed at the time, "led to immediate speculation about whether the Rice experience suggested difficulties for the economic model or if other factors may have been decisive."
An exact closing date for the University of Missouri Press has not yet been announced.
— Carolyn Kellogg