Welcome to Our Blog, Get to Know Us: A Message from UMP Director

by University of Michigan Press on September 10, 2008

The mission statement of the University of Michigan Press well conveys, I believe, our wide array of publishing objectives, a range that may surprise those who imagine university presses confined to pure scholarly publication. That statement reads:

“The mission of the University of Michigan Press is to publish books that incorporate the best of scholarly research in a wide range of humanities and social science disciplines; to publish related educational texts for student audiences—with special emphasis in the area of English language teaching; to publish in as well as about the emerging digital world; to publish books for nonacademic audiences that advance public understanding of the many vexed political, social, and cultural issues faced by a global, multicultural society; to publish books that enrich the general culture in fiction and the arts; and to publish books that highlight the human history, natural history, and changing environment of Michigan and the Great Lakes.”

Though scholarly publishing is by no means our exclusive concern, it certainly represents our largest and most important publishing commitment. University presses were created to disseminate the research results of their faculty presented in book form since scholarly books simply didn’t—and still don’t—possess the commercial potential to attract trade publishers. This responsibility for publishing scholarly books in several of the humanities and social science disciplines is one that UMP takes very seriously, and we have long produced distinguished publishing lists in many scholarly fields, including political science, legal studies, history, classics, theater and performance studies, music, German studies, disability studies, cultural studies, communication studies, and new media.

More unusually, stemming from our long association with the University of Michigan’s English Language Institute, UMP is the only U.S.-based university press that publishes English as a Second Language (ESL) textbooks and books that train future ESL/EFL teachers. While the emphasis of the large commercial ESL publishers (as well as that of the large U.K. university presses) currently focuses heavily on the K-12 audience, our celebrated ESL publishing list is directed to international students at the university/college level and those wishing to develop stronger academic and professional (law, nursing, business, hospitality) skills to contribute to the broader global society.

In addition, UMP, along with many other university presses, has moved aggressively into publishing areas that significantly enlarge our more traditional publishing concentrations. For example, UMP’s extensive regional publishing list—which focuses on the human and natural history  and the physical, social, and cultural environment of the Michigan and Great Lakes region—perfectly complements our state university’s commitment to the regional community that it magnificently educates and addresses in many ways.

In the wake of the substantial decline in the publishing of serious books by the major trade publishers, UMP feels responsible for helping educate publics nationwide about the most pressing current social, cultural, and political problems—issues such as poverty, education, public health, gun control, the criminal justice system and incarceration, immigration, civil liberties, and democracy. University presses now provide one of the few remedies for the intellectual and cultural impoverishment of many other publishing media—including books and magazines, as well as radio and TV—that is so painfully evident today.

Finally, UMP is committed to staying on the leading edge of the transition and transformation of publishing in the digital era. For us this involves, on the one hand, making our titles available in a wide variety of digital formats and, on the other, using digital venues—such as this blog—to interact with our readers in new and imaginative ways.

Two years ago we launched digitalculturebooks, a collaboration with the university library, which is dedicated to publishing books about the history and the culture of the new digital media simultaneously in a for-fee print format as well as in a free online version. And we are on the verge of dramatically expanding the array of digital formats in which we will disseminate all our titles to the public.

We very much hope that you, our readers and now our collaborators, will use this blog to register your reactions to our perspectives, our titles, and our publishing future. We are certain that we will be much the better for your increasing involvement in our publishing activities.

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