New England is home not only to some of the oldest and largest university presses in the U.S. but to one of the most unique ones—University Press of New England, which represents a consortium of four colleges and universities. In recent years both Harvard and Yale University Press have celebrated their centennials, the MIT Press its golden anniversary.
At Yale, which publishes more than 400 books a year, Leo Damrosch’s Jonathan Swift: His Life and His World won the 2013 National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography, and danah boyd’s It’s Complicated, on how technology affects teen lives, has created what press director John Donatich calls “a maelstrom” of publicity. Since its February publication, boyd’s book has gone back to press four times for a total of 20,000 copies in print.
“Our list is consistently rich in the humanities, social sciences, and physical sciences: art, history, politics, international affairs, religion, literature, economics, media culture, natural sciences,” says Donatich. “We continue to refine our imprint strategy and see the market really making distinctions among the various kinds of books we publish.” Nor has the press ignored regional titles and collaborations. Its co-publication partners include the Yale University Art Gallery, the Yale Center for British Art, and the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, and it will copublish a history of the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, Jeffrey Sweet’s The O’Neill, in May.
For Harvard, which will publish 190 books in 2014, up slightly from years past, the regional influence can be felt in its approach to publishing. “Fealty to tradition is a New England characteristic, and the continued flourishing of such venerable projects as the Loeb Classical Library, founded in 1911, and our overall publishing program’s longstanding strengths in the sciences, humanities, and social sciences suggest that it’s a trait we share,” said publicity manager Phoebe Kosman.
She also attributes some of the press’s new digital projects, including the Digital Loeb Classical Library slated to launch this fall and last year’s digital Dictionary of American Regional English to the “energizing effect” of Boston as a tech center. But Harvard’s list is by no means regional. In spring 2015, it will begin releasing the first titles in the Murty Classical Library of India, which makes the great works of India accessible to English-language readers for the first time.
MIT, which is located in the heart of Cambridge’s Tech Square, has also benefited from the area’s talent and creativity, according to editorial director Gita Manaktala. “We’re very lucky to be based at MIT, where so many remarkable collaborations happen, and sometimes they even produce books,” she says, pointing to the recently released The Atlas of Economic Complexity, which resulted from the collaboration of Ricardo Hausmann and his colleagues at Harvard’s Center for International Development and César Hidalgo at MIT’s Media Lab. “Overall, we do strive to reflect some of the ferment and dynamism of MIT. And it’s exciting to see the global uptake of ideas that were conceived and nurtured here. As publishers we have the chance to be part of that process,” Manaktala says.
The press, which will publish 228 books this year, just introduced a series of DRM-free digital excerpts, one-to-three chapters in length, from 50 books on its list, MIT Press BITS. Other upcoming titles include Nathan Eagle and Kate Greene’s Reality Mining: Using Big Data to Engineer a Better World (fall 2014) and Umberto Eco’s How to Write a Thesis (spring 2015), which was first published in Italy in 1977 and has never before been translated into English. The press also has several space titles on its list, including David Meerman Scott and Richard Jurek’s Marketing the Moon, which it is cross-promoting with several other university presses through a newly launched website, University Presses in Space (www.upinspace.org).
At UPNE, publishing is very much a group effort that includes support from indie booksellers, who consult on acquisitions, explains Barbara Briggs, who handles publicity and subsidiary rights for the press, which publishes 30 books a season plus distributed titles. Because of its growing success nationally, this spring UPNE launched its first trade imprint in nearly 20 years, ForeEdge, with James W. Graham’s Victura: The Kennedys, a Sailboat, and the Sea.