Saturday, June 2, 2012

The University of Missouri Press is Closing

The Bookstore Cat hates to see any publisher go under (well, OK, he wouldn't mind seeing Regnery Publishing die.) It seems especially sad to lose a university press, so it was upsetting to hear that the University of Missouri Press would be closing down.

It's money, of course. Thanks in part to obstructionist Republicans who think preserving tax cuts for billionaires is more important than funding education, universities around the country are facing a cash crunch. Tuitions are rising faster than the rate of inflation (billionaires, of course, are not bothered by such trifles as the cost of living), and programs are being cut. For the University of Missouri, the $400,000 subsidy given to its press was the budget chop of choice. The ten employees had not an inkling beforehand; they learned of it before their mid-morning meeting on May 24th.

The University of Missouri Press was founded in 1958, and has published some 2000 books in a wide range of academic subjects. They published the Collected Works of Langston Hughes, preserving his lesser-known and out-of-print writing. Their American Military Experience Series rigorously examines the effect of 20th Century wars on American life. They are exceptionally strong in publishing books on Missouri arts and letters through their works on Mark Twain and Harry Truman, and through their Missouri Biography Series and the Missouri Heritage Series. It is in such specialized and regional history that university presses excel, and where their loss may most be felt.

The University of Missouri Press has published such esoteric works as The Original Rush Limbaugh, a biography of the idealistic civil rights attorney who must be rolling over in his grave at the racist, sexist and idiotic bloviation of his namesake radio commentator grandson. They have published a number of important works in African American history, including the Satchel Paige biography "If Only You Were White" and From Edward Brooke to Barack Obama, a look at African American political successes since 1966.

These streams of wisdom are soon to go dry.

Fortunately, university press closings have been relatively rare in the 143 years since the first true American university press was founded by Cornell in 1869. A number of presses have closed and later reopened, including such renowned ones as the University of Pennsylvania, Stanford, and the University of Minnesota, but only a handful have been shuttered for good.

The Bookstore Cat hopes we can keep it that way.

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