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The American University Press

Graduate School of Library Science. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
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  • Publishers And Publishing --United States


Fifteen years ago the conveners of a symposium on "Trends in American Publishing" would probably not have invited a representative of the then rather esoteric and little known field of the university presses. For until a few years after World War II and certainly for the two decades preceding it, the scholarly publishers on university campuses were hardly considered legitimate, far less as presenting an important segment of the publishing industry which had to be taken into account. With the exception of a few Ivy League schools, plus Columbia, Cornell and Johns Hopkins, and a little later of the universities of Chicago and California, the academic publisher was considered woefully amateurish. Thus the industry could well afford to ignore the scholarly presses, or to use them as places to which they could refer authors whose manuscripts, they knew, would not be profitable to publish. The label "a typical university press book" was used to characterize the often ponderously written, jargon-laden and treatise- like manuscript which might later find its published form in a drab, badly printed hardback of forbidding and voluminous proportions. For in those pre- sputnik days the campus publishers were mainly concerned with issuing research reports and monographs, primarily destined for the specialists and the libraries in their fields, and of interest exclusively to the academic community. Although many of these influenced the course of research, only very rarely was a book published which was destined actually to change attitudes or to bring such new insights that a whole discipline was born and not many presses were as lucky as Chicago at the end of the last century when it published John Dewey.

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