Vesalius gave Western medicine new views of the human body - and
a landmark book.
the first day back to work in 2001, as the morning sun shone blindingly
on the pockmarked and trampled Midway snow, an e-mail message
wended its way through the University of Chicago servers.
January 11th and 12th," came the typo that made, at first
glance, a proclamation of a note from the University's facilities
services, "the University of Chicago Press offices will be
moving out of their 3rd and 4th floor office space and into the
new building. The movers will be hauling constantly all day (7
a.m. to 7 p.m.) on these two days." Parking on both sides
of Ellis and about 100 feet of "street frontage" would
be "impacted," as would foot traffic on a section of
stairs on the northeast side of the University's Administration
mention was made as to why the Press was moving, or even where
the new Press building happens to be. Like the shoemaker's elves,
the editors and marketers and information-technology staff who
publish many of the academic world's most controversial and ground-breaking
ideas would disperse late in the evening of January 10, only to
reappear four days later in some shiny new space to resume their
hauling, and impeding traffic for 12 hours are the least of what's
been going on at the largest university press in the nation. Big
changes have been under way, changes undetectable to those who
benefit most from Chicago Press materials-from the 80,000 fans
who devoured the 1999 collection of columns by the late Pulitzer
Prize-winning Tribune newspaperman Mike Royko, to the thousand
or so political scientists who this fall purchased and scribbled
furiously in the margins of Affective Intelligence and Political
Judgment by George E. Marcus, W. Russell Neuman, and Michael
MacKuen. (Did any of them notice the recently streamlined phoenix
logo on the book's spine?)
again, the countless astrophysicists who spent several hundred
hours of "real time"-that is, online-during the past
three years reviewing and criticizing their far-flung colleagues'
articles in the Astrophysical Journal must have some inkling
of the changes under way at the 109-year-old Press. But most likely
they could not care less about the 130-plus editors, marketers,
and coders in the Press's journals division who were for too long
crammed into three overflowing buildings around Hyde Park and
who, finally, this January no longer must fear an avalanche if
they lean back in their chairs after several hard hours of SGML
and DOI coding. (The journals division uses standard generalized
markup language, a superset of HTML, to manage and electronically
store articles in a database-like system. Digital object identifiers,
like the unique ISBNs on books, are serial numbers which the Press
assigns to units of intellectual content, such as a book, a chapter,
or a single illustration.)
journals staff will have been joined by their books counterparts
in the new Press building, an $11 million structure on the south
side of the Midway at the eastern edge of campus, next door to
the Sonia Shankman Orthogenic School and opposite the International
Press, which William Rainey Harper deemed an "organic"
part of the University of Chicago when both institutions were
still in their infancies during the last decade of the 19th century,
is, for the foreseeable future at least, no longer root bound.
course, Harper's 19th-century University of Chicago was a rather
Organic?" Paula Barker Duffy glares. "If you
were to stop anyone out there on the Quad"-this conversation
takes place before the move-"and ask them, 'How do you get
to the University of Chicago Press building?,' what do you think
they'd say? They would shrug their shoulders and say they don't
have any idea. And that's now, when you're standing right under
the nose of the Admin Building. Most people at this University
don't have any idea what goes on at the University of Chicago
is the 14th director of the Press, and just six months into her
position, she is beginning to make the type of internal ripples
that, when they reach the shores of the Press's target markets
some time from now, will crash like very discreet tsunami. Duffy
comes from commercial publishing-the management side of commercial
publishing-and her credentials include an M.B.A. from the Harvard
Business School. A former publisher of the Free Press and vice
president of parent company Simon and Schuster, she has also served
as director of the Harvard Business School Press, which under
her watch became known as a leading publisher of business titles.
has a rare combination of experiences," says Associate Provost
John Mark Hansen, the William R. Kenan Jr. professor in political
science and a member of the search committee that recommended
Duffy. Hansen cites Duffy's "proven record in making research
and scholarly publishing operations work more effectively."
In addition to her work at Harvard, she has served as publications
director at the International Labour Organization in Geneva, where
she helped create a global publishing strategy for a program of
English-, French-, and Spanish-language research monographs and
policy studies. ("I got 41 offices around the world to stop
communicating by mail pouch," says Duffy.)
succeeds Morris H. Philipson AB'49, AM'52, who held the position
for 33 years. He too came from commercial publishing-but as an
editor in the 1960s at Knopf, Random House, and Basic Books. Which
isn't to say that Philipson lacked business sense. Under his watch,
the U of C Press grew from a $4 million operation in 1967 to $42
million in sales last year. Annual output ballooned from 180 books
and 23 scholarly journals to 250 books and 49 scholarly journals.
To put those figures into perspective, the presses of Yale, Harvard,
and MIT each bring in between $18 million and $20 million annually.
MIT publishes 200 books in a year and 40 journals, Harvard 130
books-and although Oxford University Press publishes 3,000 books
a year and Cambridge University Press 2,500 books and 150-plus
journals, Philipson liked to quip that "they have 500 years
increasing the Press's annual output of new material, Philipson
also invested in its backlist, the number of books kept in print.
Today the Press has more than 4,700 books in print-compared a
backlist of 2,800 at Harvard.
goes without saying that any academic publisher would kill for
our backlist," says Penelope Kaiserlian, the petite, soft-spoken
Brit who has served as associate director of the Press for 17
years. Atop the backlist is the Press's No. 1 best-seller, "Turabian,"
a.k.a., A Manual for Writers of Theses, Term Papers, and Dissertations,
the 1937 work by Kate Turabian, known as the late-night companion
of graduate students everywhere. But Kaiserlian also reels off
a list of works that many scholars would consider monumental in
their fields, including Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific
Revolutions, originally published in 1969 and now in its third
edition, and F. A. Hayek's The Road to Serfdom, which celebrated
its 50th anniversary in 1994 and continues to sell.
list, Kaiserlian says, represents the "wealth of ideas that
has always distinguished the University of Chicago," regardless
of whether their progenitors are Chicago scholars. What distinguishes
the Press from its commercial counterparts, adds Duffy, is its
willingness to invest in the long life cycle of ideas. Under Philipson
the Press became legendary for taking on "ambitious"
scholarly projects-that is, works that can take decades to complete.
One such project was The Lisle Letters, a six-volume work
51 years in the making, which the New York Times called
"one of the most extraordinary historical works in the century"
and which won the Carey-Thomas Award for creative publishing in
also steered the Press into the regional-title market-hence the
Royko book and its 2001 sequel, as well as other titles on this
year's docket like a reexamination of architect Daniel Burham's
1909 Plan of Chicago and a collection of columns by Blair
Kamin, the Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic for the
her part, Duffy doesn't seem to give much thought to the size
of the shoes she must fill. She is more interested in talking
about market segments and the functions of staffers and what a
manuscript really is ("If you think about it, it's just a
collected volume of ideas"). As she speaks about the future
of the Press, her eyes begin to flash. Mid-sentence she jumps
up to grab books from shelves on every wall in her office, and
she often defers to Kaiserlian's institutional memory on a topic
or to ask her second-in-command to expand upon a point. The last
thing she wants to do at Chicago is start a revolution.
don't see any reason to abandon the incredible tradition of this
institution," she says.
traditions run deep. Acquisitions editors, who are responsible
for bringing new works to the Press, will continue to make the
rounds of national academic meetings, where they flesh out already
well-fleshed networks of authors and manuscript reviewers and
sniff out the new directions of the disciplines. Monthly closed-door
meetings of the 15-member faculty publications board, during which
acquisitions editors pitch the next set of ideas up for a phoenix
on their spines, will go on as they have since the Press's earliest
days. Once a book makes it through content review and revision
(both of which can take years), manuscript editors will continue
fine-tuning the sentence structure and punctuation of authors'
sentences, almost all of which has been done electronically since
the early 1990s. The journals division will continue blazing the
online publishing trail it embarked upon in 1992 when a National
Science Foundation grant to the American Astronomical Society
led to the 1997 online publication of the Astrophysical Journal.
Today 18 journals are online; another ten are slated to go online
main intention is to make good things better, to capitalize on
what she calls the Press's "incredible intellectual capital."
One of her first priorities is to free up resources for the journals'
electronic publishing staff, who will in turn share its expertise
with a books division that has just begun exploring online publishing.
spring, for example, the Press released the Web-based edition
of The Founder's Constitution. A collection of the primary
sources from which the U.S. Constitution was developed, The
Founder's Constitution was edited by Chicago professors Philip
B. Kurland and Ralph Lerner, AB'47, AM'49, PhD'53, and first published
by the Press in 1987 in five oversized cloth volumes. Through
a partnership with the Liberty Fund, the work is available for
free on the Web at press-pubs.uchicago.edu/ founders. Another
forthcoming Web-based project, The Chicago Homer, is the
Press's first "book" not tied to a print edition. Available
to educational institutions through site licenses, the work will
provide the Greek text of the Iliad, the Odyssey,
the Homeric hymns, and the works of Hesiod, along with the translations
by Richmond Lattimore and Daryl Hine. (In print, Lattimore's Iliad
stands near the top of the Press's all-time best-sellers list.)
intramural sharing of electronic publishing expertise is one of
those important little ripples that will, eventually, soak the
entire Press and its unsuspecting readership during the next half
dozen years. But it wouldn't be possible without the move into
the new building.
and Robert Shirrell, AB'71, the manager of the journals division
who first joined the Press in 1972, put a year's worth of planning
into the building's interior design and another year into seeing
the plan to fruition. Mention of the new space lights up the faces
of both Kaiserlian and Shirrell. Propped on the bookshelf behind
Shirrell's desk is a notecard with the new building's architectural
rendering, which he regards admiringly, commenting on its handsome
lines and the way in which it honors the integrity of the University's
the inside, Kaiserlian and Shirrell have helped design a floor
plan that, they hope, will get people at the Press to talk to
one another. The book acquisitions editors will share a floor
with the marketing staff-since, after all, the editors who discover
and nurture a scholar's work know best who will want to be aware
of its upcoming appearance in print. The manuscript editors for
journals and books also will share floor space, free to debate
comma placement and citation protocol. No doubt the resolutions
of their arguments will make their way into the 15th edition of
The Chicago Manual of Style, due out in 2002, an eagerly
awaited revision being led by recently retired chief of manuscript
editing Margaret Mahan, with input from manuscript editors within
and outside the Press.
favorite aspect of the new building is the book-lined café
that will open on the first floor, where she envisions Press and
University people meeting over lunch or coffee, browsing new releases
and time-tested editions. It is in this café that Duffy
hopes new ideas will take shape and new ripples will begin their
journeys to the Press's far-flung markets.
the Royko collections and other general-audience works-including
2000 National Book Award finalists The Collaborator, a
nonfiction book by Alice Kaplan, and the poetry volume The
Other Lover by Bruce Smith-the Press's primary market is scholars
around the world.
journals publish articles for scholars in fields such as sociology,
business, legal studies, religion, musicology, education, biology,
geology, and astrophysics. The books division specializes in scholarship
in the sciences and history of science, social sciences, and humanities.
Acquisitions editors at the Press are quick to interject that
they are in the business of disseminating important scholarly
ideas, the type that cause tsunamis of their own once they reach
their audiences. A manuscript won't make it past that closed-door
lunch meeting of the publications board if it isn't important
or if the acquisitions editor isn't able to establish how consequential
he or she believes the work will be.
for Duffy, Kaiserlian, and Shirrell-everyone at the Press, for
that matter-the most significant aspect of their work is the process
of dissemination, knowing the marketplace for ideas, knowing where
those markets are heading. "I'm interested in younger scholars,"
says Duffy, "what they need, how they do their work, where
they congregate on the Internet, how we can apprise them of the
existence of one of our works. We can't lose track of them."
a few years the dissemination of ideas to these young scholars
may mean something very different than selling books with spines-the
way a "journal" means something very different for Press
readers today than it meant less than a decade ago. Subscriptions
have become site licenses, and the ability to search and retrieve
packets of scholarly information-such as a repeated phrase structure
in the Homeric corpus-which, after all, is how Duffy defines a
manuscript, has become increasingly important.
anyone can publish his or her work on the Web free of charge.
"There are hundreds of thousands of manuscripts out there
online," says journals manager Shirrell. "You can't
get through them all. You don't know what's important and what's
a waste of time." The uncertainty of the current situation
in publishing ("All of the traditional forms of mediation
between author and reader now are up for grabs," says Duffy)
can be overwhelming-or not.
have come to know that University of Chicago Press journals only
publish the most scholarly sound and carefully vetted research,"
says Shirrell. "They trust us. Our imprint is more important
now than it has ever been."
the U of C imprint represents, says Duffy, is "editorial
oversight, a serious process of peer review, and consistently
fine work." Of course, the Press does have other customers,
to whom the imprint represents something fairly similar. A significant
portion of its income comes from its third arm of business: the
warehouse and distribution center.
University of Chicago Press warehouse is a flat, nondescript building
on Langley Street, in the district where Pullman boxcars were
assembled during the early 20th century, seven miles due south
of Hyde Park and across from a Keebler cookie factory. Inside
the 118,000-square-foot main warehouse, books and journals rest
in boxes on pallets shelved 22 feet high, rotate on carousels,
skate along assembly belts. There are 8.2 million "units"
and 17,000 ISBNs and ISSNs under its roof at any given moment.
The works are arranged on a space-available basis and tracked
by ISBN and ISSN via an in-house computer system.
one half of the building, "pickers" fulfill orders for
Chicago books and journals and for works published by the other
scholarly presses that outsource their distribution to the U of
C Press. A button is pressed, a carousel holding 1,500 titles
springs into motion, and the brightly colored spines of Purity
and Exile, Modernity and Its Malcontents, and African Rhythms
and African Sensibility whirl past. High above, the windows
stretching along the eastern wall are painted green to keep the
building cool during hot Chicago summers. The light from the sun
off the snow filtered through the paint feels strangely like the
light in a zoo's rain forest house.
probably about three to five years, all these books will have
their own bar code." Don Collins, a compact man with a bushy
mustache, is the CFO of the University of Chicago Press. "Every
book will be scanned. That's what a lot of these bookstores want.
That electronic information helps them with stocking, especially
if they have unskilled or untrained workers in their back offices."
Collins has overseen the Press's warehouse and distribution operations
at Langley since 1986 and, since Duffy came on board in August,
his operations have been receiving a lot of attention. Duffy is
adamant that all three of the Press's businesses-books, journals,
distribution-are equal and that each is dependent upon the others
for its survival.
has long outsourced the actual printing of its books and journals.
Storing and shipping books and journals is also an expensive business;
to make money at it, a press must be able to move a large number
of titles. Given the size of Chicago's list, the Press has the
potential to do a tidy business in distribution-something Collins
recognized as soon as he arrived.
joining the U of C, he served in a similar capacity at the Texas
A&M Press. There he persuaded the presses of Texas Christian,
Southern Methodist, and Rice Universities to outsource distribution
to A&M. Encouraged by A&M's success, Collins moved the
U of C in the same direction. In 1991 the Press took on its first
customer in the warehouse, shipping, and accounts receivable business:
the University of Tennessee Press. This April Temple University
Press will be the 17th press to join the flock.
leads the way through the warehouse, letting the people and things
he passes dictate the conversation. After watching a picker in
action, he makes the comment about bar coding. In the shipping
area, he explains that orders go out twice a day by motor freight.
As he passes into the bulk-storage area, where boxes of books
awaiting the call to the picking room reach almost as high as
the ductwork suspended from the ceiling, he talks about managing
the presses' stock. "Once a year we do a physical inventory.
We shut the place down for two days and we count and then we recount.
We do it in February, March, or April, which is when we have the
least amount of new stuff coming in. This year it's going to have
to be February because Temple's coming in in April."
points to a yellow forklift. "See that? It's a Drexel. A
narrow-aisle forklift. They're about five times more expensive
than a regular forklift,"-$98,000 a pop, it turns out-"but
they're worth it because of their maneuverability." He asks
the forklift operator to demonstrate the machine's elevating SwingMast
feature. He does, and the fork jerks around until it is perpendicular
to the body of the truck, ready if needed to slide a pallet of
boxes onto an open shelf 20 feet above. Collins explains that
the machine cuts operating time, and because it doesn't require
space to turn its entire body, the towering shelf structures have
been moved closer together, allowing for more books to be stored.
moves away from the storage area to the open loading dock and
stops to light a cigarette, which he holds cupped backwards in
his hand so that the smoke snakes up behind him. "We had
1,259 new titles last year and 760 reprints. If you divide that
out, books over working days, 10 ISBNs hit the dock every day.
That's a lot of books moving in and out of this place every day."
Collins's office, he talks about the future of distribution at
the U of C Press, the ripples that will eventually change the
day-to-day business at the Langley center. The buzz is that "print
on demand" (POD) is a not-too-distant possibility, and Collins
confirms that by late spring 2001 the Press may have its own short-run
digital printing machinery. To ensure a profitable investment,
the Press must be able to commit to running a minimum of 45,000
units a year. This new technology has two benefits, Collins explains.
For small university presses whose print runs are negligible (but
no less important), POD could provide a means to stay in business.
For Chicago, POD means low-cost reprinting of scholarly monographs
for which demand is so slim they would be otherwise too expensive
to sustain on the backlist. The print quality will not be the
same, of course, but the Press would continue to disseminate the
year we had the same amount of titles going out of print as came
in," says Collins. "POD is one way not to tie up millions
of dollars of inventory space. It also lets us find a way so books
don't have to bite the dust."
last thing Paula Barker Duffy wants to see amid the silent crashing
of her tsunamis is ideas biting the dust. "You know, someday
somebody is going to write the story of this press, and it's not
going to be who was hired when and who did what," she says.
"It's going to be about the ideas that came out of this institution,
how they were discovered, how they finally saw the light of day,
how they changed the way scholars thought about something."
a story that remains to be told-probably one that will take years
to write and which will face the blasting fires of the University's
publications board, until eventually, whether it has a spine or
the electronic equivalent of one, the story of the University
of Chicago Press will be stamped with a streamlined phoenix and
set loose upon the world. In the meantime, the staff has already
settled into their new spaces and returned to their specific functions
within the dissemination of ideas, while Duffy keeps an eye open
for the curling tip of a wave.