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University presses performing strong

Hannah Cohen

The American Association of Publishers (AAP) recently reported exceptionally strong June 2010 book sales for university presses.

The study, compiled by AAP Vice President Tina Jordan, shows that hardcover book sales increased 7.7 percent to $3.4 million, which resulted in a year-to-date increase of 1.9 percent. Paperback sales were identical, with $3.4 million, along with a monthly increase of 8.6 percent and a 1.3 percent year-to-date increase. In the professional book category, June sales were up 2.2 percent, to $59.5 million, which made the year-to-date sales gain 11.4 percent. Voicemails left for Jordan went unanswered.

Despite these phenomenal statistics, University of Massachusetts Press director Bruce Wilcox cautioned this information could be misleading.

“I’m slightly skeptical about those figures,” he said during a telephone interview. “I get a separate set of statistics for the Association of American University Presses (AAUP), and those statistics track just the sales at university presses and not beyond. Most of the AAP sales deal with trade sales and then they have a category.”

The AAP’s website describes the organization as “the principal trade association of the U.S. book trading industry” and that it “represents publishers of all sizes and types throughout the country.” In this sense, the AAP’s statistics could be less significant for UMass as they are broader in scope and include data from smaller college presses.

However, Wilcox noted that the AAUP statistics that he utilizes still show some growth in sales.

“For Fiscal Year ‘10, which ended June 30, overall university presses saw an increase in net sales for the year of 2.3 percent, which is a lot smaller than the [AAP figures],” he added.

A voicemail left with the AAUP press office was returned by an unidentified spokeswoman who said that it was “too early” in the new fiscal year to comment on previous or current changes in sales.

On a final, positive note, Wilcox said the new fiscal year is starting off strong.

“We’re encouraged by the strong sales we’ve experienced in July and August; the fiscal year is off to a very good start,” he said.

According to several new technology updates, those sales just might get stronger. Wilcox mentioned that the UMass press plans to add e-books to the lineup of texts it produces. This feature will start sometime this month.

“We’re going to be part of the Google Editions program,” he said. “We expect to have more than 800 books available through Google Editions.”

“Those books will exist ‘in the cloud’, as they say,” he went on. “And you can either buy them from Google or from an intermediate bookseller such as Barnes & Noble. The idea is that books are available whenever you need them, wherever you need them.”

Add that to the Textbook Annex’s new book-rental policy and students will have two new options for getting their textbooks by the end of this month. And with the average college student spending $900 per year on books, according to Wilcox, this news may well be welcomed warmly by the UMass student body.

Cameron Ford can be reached at cford@dailycollegian.com.

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