Rice University Press: Nascentis fame

Rice University Press (RUP), which began full operation in February 2007, proved a short-lived experiment. After three years of supporting one paid staff position and modest additional funding for contracted book design work, office expenses, and travel, Rice closed the press down as part of a larger, campuswide, budget-cutting effort. Faced with a choice between investing more financial and human capital in its press as a condition for gaining substantial foundation support or opting out of the experiment altogether, university administration chose the latter. Short-lived as the RUP experience was, it nevertheless offers some important lessons for people pondering the future of academic publishing and its inexorable move in a digital direction. There is no question that traditional printed-on-paper publishing is dying out and that it will be replaced by digital academic discourse distributed on a different economic model. There are, however, substantial questions about when and how this paradigm shift will come about, and the Rice University Press story may offer some answers.