University of Michigan Press operations during COVID-19 spread

by Charles Watkinson on April 2, 2020

The University of Michigan Press staff anticipates being able to largely maintain normal operations during the pandemic, but the rapid spread of COVID-19 means that this may change. Also, our operations are highly reliant on manufacturing and distribution partners whose own operations are being disrupted and on University of Michigan shared services that may be affected by staff shortages. Our commitment to authors, libraries, retailers, instructors, students, and other readers is to be as flexible and adaptable as possible to continue to serve your needs.

We will communicate any severe disruptions here and through Twitter.

As part of the University of Michigan we follow the University’s policies and guidance which are constantly being updated and communicated.

Currently the main impacts on the Press are as follows:

  • Travel restrictions/advisories: Restrictions on both international and domestic trips have been put in place by our parent University. This means that University of Michigan Press staff will not be attending any conferences or meetings outside Ann Arbor which have not already been cancelled until after April 21 at the earliest.
  • Remote working: Since March 17, all staff have been working remotely. This means that email is the best form of communication — you can find staff emails here or contact mpub-help@umich.edu with general questions which will be routed to the appropriate person. For in-person meetings, do not be surprised to receive a “Bluejeans” invitation — Bluejeans is our videoconferencing system.
  • Availability of printed books: Continuity in the production and shipping of print books is dependent on our printers and distributors:
    • North America: As of March 23, the Chicago Distribution Center warehouse (where UMP holds its stock of books) will be closed because of the Illinois Shelter in Place order. This is effective through April 13. This change will affect availability of some of the Press’s books but we are working with CDC to move supply of those books that are set up for digital printing to remote fulfillment options. Customers who order a title through the Press’s shopping cart will see an availability message that indicates status.
    • Rest of World: Our distributor serving markets outside North America is Eurospan. While Eurospan currently reports work as normal, supply of titles will be affected by the temporary closure of the Chicago Distribution Center. We are endeavoring to switch production of titles whose format allows to remote digital printing so that these can be printed locally outside North America.
  • Availability of electronic books: For a limited period, we have made all titles in the library-facing University of Michigan Press Ebook Collection (UMP EBC) free-to-read. This action is designed to support faculty members and students manage the rapid switch to remote learning and teaching. Further details are available here. Ebook availability in direct-to-consumer and library aggregation channels remains as normal.
  • Forthcoming books: Our authors’ lives are also, of course, disrupted, but if authors are able to stick to deadlines, we are too. When we have ebook rights, ebook editions will be made available on their existing publication dates. When the format of the printed book is conducive to print-on-demand, we will also make a print book available. Print books in formats that are not possible to manufacture print-on-demand will be delayed and released when our printers and distributors are back in operation.
  • Financial operations: Since we are dependent on shared services at the University of Michigan, some functions such as accounts payable and royalty payments may be delayed. However, we recognize that suppliers and rights holders are facing their own financial challenges, and we will work to report and pay as promptly as possible.

We are fortunate as a business to operate primarily online already and to exist within the infrastructure of a large University with a strong commitment to evidence-based responses and business continuity. However, the current situation is unprecedented in recent times and we share the uncertainty that you all are also facing. For answers to questions not addressed here, please contact mpub-help@umich.edu and the appropriate person will respond.

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