Jackson — It’s a busy time at University Press of Mississippi (UPM) with a new sales initiative and increased sales due to exciting new titles and replacement sales as a result of Hurricane Katrina. At the state’s only not-for-profit book publisher, the editorial program remains essentially the same but areas of emphasis are always being tweaked.
Director Seetha Srinivasan says UPM is using technology to make books available via the Internet. “We’re pursuing it quite aggressively for printing on demand when traditional markets for books have been reached,” she said. “When there is no surplus in the warehouse, we list books as being available, take orders and advise the vendor who prints and sends them to customers.”
Although books printed on demand are not the same quality as books printed the traditional way, Srinivasan says it’s a very good use of technology and is keeping out-of-print books alive.
“We are looking closely at books that are out of print and can make more of them available,” she said. “We are sometimes surprised by the demand. It has strengthened our program.”
UPM is selling more books online from its own Web site and now sells directly to Amazon.com. “We can offer more to consumers this way,” Srinivasan said. “Those who might not respond to direct mail do order this way, and sales revenues are increasing.”
She says last August’s hurricane has impacted sales as stores, libraries and wholesalers replace lost books. There has also been renewed interest in books about Mississippi and Louisiana culture.
“We had almost $150,000 worth of sales in the zip codes that were affected by the hurricane in the two states,” she said.
The University Press generates about 88% of its operating budget from book sales and the remaining funding comes from the state’s eight public universities. “Our funding is stable but we’re subject to market sales,” the director said. “We appreciate the funding from the universities very much.”
She points out the important role UPM plays in determining who the state is culturally. When the press’ published books are reviewed in the national media, they bring favorable publicity to Mississippi. UPM publishes works of professors at the universities along with works of scholarly and popular appeal.
Titles are available in the areas of African-American studies, American studies, literature, history, art and architecture, ethnic studies, fiction, folklore, health, music, natural sciences, performance, photography, popular culture, Southern studies and women’s studies.
“We always have a strong literary list, and we have a real presence in African-American studies,” Srinivasan said. “A lot are real academic and won’t be stocked in bookstores.”
Comics as cultural phenomena are a new subject area for UPM that she says is growing in importance. “We have established a fine reputation in that area with interviews with artists and a systematic study of comics’ importance to our culture,” she added.
University Press has a number of new titles of interest to business readers. They include “Resorting to Casinos, the Mississippi Gambling Industry.” It is edited by University of Southern Mississippi professor Denise von Herrmann and includes essays on how casinos became legal in the state and how they affect the economy and people.
Another is “Drilling Ahead, the Quest for Oil in the Deep South” by Alan Cockrell, a petroleum geologist, and covers the period from 1945 to 2005.
UPM tries to periodically print books on the state’s natural resources. The most current title is “Sharks, Skates, and Rays of the Gulf of Mexico,” a field guide by University of Mississippi biology professor Glenn R. Parsons. “Paddling the Pascagoula” by Ernest Herndon and Scott B. Williams also falls in that category as the duo has an appreciative adventure along America’s last unaltered river system. Herndon is a staff writer for the Enterprise-Journal in McComb and Williams is a freelance writer based in Jackson.
Two new books of photography are parallel publications reflecting images of the War Between the States that captures the battlegrounds, history and memories of that war. Photographed by newspaper photojournalist Timothy T. Isbell, the titles are “Gettysburg: Sentinels of Stone” and “Vicksburg: Sentinels of Stone.” Srinivasan says the books of four-color photos should be available in July.
Coming to bookstores soon is “The Reverend,” an intimate portrait of a fiery spiritual leader and his African-American congregations, by James Perry Walker with a foreword by Will D. Campbell.
Another recent publication, “Katherine Anne Porter, the Life of an Artist,” by Darlene Harbour Unrue won the Eudora Welty Prize given each year by Mississippi University for Women to a UPM published book. Welty was an admirer and friend of Porter.
“We submit books we think are appropriate for the prize, and a committee at the university chooses the winner,” Srinivasan said. “The prize is broadly described as a distinguished book in modern letters. MUW sponsors a Welty Conference and the prize winner speaks there.”
University Press of Mississippi was founded in 1970 and acquires, edits, distributes and promotes more than 60 new books each year.
Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at email@example.com.