January 26, 2009

University presses cut jobs as the economic crisis deepens


Cambridge University Press headquarters in, well, Cambridge.

Cambridge University Press headquarters in, well, Cambridge.

The economic crisis that’s been whacking the conglomerate publishing and bookselling scene has finally gotten to the university press world, with two of the largest and most prestigious announcing big cuts over the last few days. First, as a Publishers Weekly report by Andrew Albanese details, the biggest university press in the US at some 500 titles per year, the Oxford University Press, “laid off 60 people between its two offices in New York and Cary, N.C.” Company president Tim Barton said the cuts were “a result of the difficult economic environment impacting the publishing industry,” while OUP spokesperson Christian Purdy “said the cut was made in anticipation of a reduction in state and library budgets for next year.” That was Thursday. Friday, in jolly old England, 160 employees of the the world’s oldest publisherr, the Cambridge University Press (founded in 1534), were made considerably less jolly when they were axed from the prestigious house. What’s more, as Raymond Brown of the Cambridge News reports, there will be at least another 25 people cut. The announcement brought on a strong response from the print workers’ union, Amicus, which called the move “a disgrace” because, as Brown notes, “In the company’s annual report, out this month, bosses said 2007/8 was a ‘first-class year for the press with sales reaching £179.5 million’ and ‘another year of market-leading growth, at 11.8 per cent’.” It led one worker to say “The whole thing is immoral,” but CUP head Stephen Bourne said, “There are parts of the business doing very well and a lot of them are overseas but two parts are not and one is simply not viable in the long term.”

Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House. Follow him on Twitter at @mobylives