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Publish and Flourish
>>Andreas Vesalius gave Western medicine new views of the human body - and a landmark book.

On 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.

PHOTO:  Paula Barker Duffy, the Press's 14th director with associate director Penelope Kaiserlian."O 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 Building.

No 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 tasks.

Packing, 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?)

PHOTO:  Editor Douglas Mitchell, AB'65, acquires books in sociology, sex and gay studies, history, and rhetoric and communication theory.  He joined the press in 1977.Then 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.)

The 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 House.

The 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.

Of course, Harper's 19th-century University of Chicago was a rather different place.

"Organic? 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 Press."

Duffy 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.

"She 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.)

She 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 on us."

While 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.

"It 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.

PHOTO:  Pamela Heath juggles production schedules for twice-yearly list releases.The 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 1981.

Philipson 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 Chicago Tribune.

For 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.

"I don't see any reason to abandon the incredible tradition of this institution," she says.

The 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 in 2001.

Duffy's 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.

Last 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 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.)

The 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.

Kaiserlian 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 earliest architecture.

For 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.

Duffy's 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.

Despite 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.

The 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.

So 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."

In 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.

Meanwhile, 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.

"Scholars 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."

What 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.

The 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.

In 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.

PHOTO:  CFO Don Collins will oversee the Press's forays into "print on demand.""In 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.

Chicago 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.

Before 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.

Collins 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."

PHOTO:  Chicago's warehouse and distribution center (left) handles shipping and storage for 17 presses.He 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.

Collins 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."

In 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 ideas.

"This 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."

The 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."

It's 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.

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