Squeezed by a declining library market and fiscally prudent administrators, New York University Press, like many other academic publishers, is paying much closer attention to the bottom line and searching for ways to profitably publish serious books.

Niko Pfund, director of the NYU Press, told PW, "Library sales, our lifeblood, have contracted. At the same time, there's been a reduction in university funding," which now consists of in-kind services such as telephones or technical support. Even serious books, he said, are fetching higher advances -- yet another financial hurdle. "We have tremendous pressure to bring in revenues," Pfund added. "UPs are publishing more books, aimed at far more different markets, than ever before -- with fewer staff."

NYU Press has annual sales of about $5 million to $6 million. It has a full-time staff of 18, plus 12 to 15 student interns. The press publishes some 150 books a year in 12 areas that range from such traditional categories as history to the more fashionable academic disciplines such as race and ethnicity and cultural studies, said Pfund. The company also handles distribution for a "selective" group of publishers, including the Monthly Review Press, Berg Publishers, Rivers Oram/Poandor and Lawrence &Wishart. By this summer, the press should complete its move from its current location in the NYU library building on Washington Square to new offices on Broadway.

UPs do have certain advantages, declared Pfund, pointing out that the relatively small NYU Press frontlist enables the staff to give each book considerable attention. "We can put marketing punch behind a book" that would be "a small fish on the list of a commercial publisher," he continued. NYU's intellectual pedigree, according to the director, also means that their books often get prime review attention: "We had 10 New York Times reviews this year. We can take a small book and make it a big book."

The press has done just that with Kosovo: A Short History by N l Malcolm, which has 15,000 copies in print. Paperback rights sold to HarperCollins for six figures. Pfund hopes to repeat that success with Eve: A Biography by Pamela Norris, an illustrated historical analysis of women's status, based on the ancient biblical story. First published in the U.K., the book will be the press's lead fall title.

Pfund also noted that The Wired Professor by Anne B. Keating and Joseph Hargitai (Jan.), a guide to using the Web for college professors, "fulfills our academic mandate. It has valuable scholarship, and it's been a commercial success. It's a perfect book." The press is also focusing on titles for seniors and has released The Practical Guide to Aging, which currently has more than 7000 copies in print. NYU Press's well -- designed Web site (www.nyupress. nyu.edu/) has a searchable database, online catalogue and weekly features.

Pfund also pointed to another pressing issue in UP publishing: a concern that large, well-funded presses -- such as those at Oxford, Cambridge and Princeton -- are becoming "digital elites," actively involved in the new media, while small or even midsize academic presses without the resources are left behind.

To address the issue, NYU and NYU Press have joined with the American Council of Learned Societies to seek funds to set up a centralized, nonprofit electronic publishing cooperative that would focus initially on works of history. The venture would serve as an outlet for electronic monographs and books from the smaller presses and provide them with a training facility for digital publishing. Pfund described it as an effort to preserve the "marvelous" diversity found among university presses. "It is imperative that this diversity be translated into the electronic environment," he insisted.