The next step in saving the University of New Mexico’s publishing house, UNM Press, was approved by the Board of Regents on March 12.
The press will outsource their warehouse and distribution functions to Longleaf Service Inc., which works with several other academic presses, according to Richard Schuetz, the interim director of UNM Press.
UNM Press has been operating with a deficit for decades, according to Interim Senior Vice Provost Richard Wood, and after efforts to reduce operation cost by downsizing employees, the regents approved to outsource the warehouse to Tennessee.
Schuetz said the Press was publishing 75 to 85 publications annually but cut down to 50 this year in order to save more on costs.
“We’ve gotten smaller, and now this piece will be to help us be a little more efficient,” he said.
An empty forklift sits in the University of New Mexico Press warehouse as workers take their lunch break.
Wood said UNM Press has run deficits around several hundred thousand dollars a year for a few years, and this decision to outsource the warehouse was a financial one.
UNM Press currently has a fixed cost, which means no matter how well or poorly the press is doing, it pays the same amount for warehouse functions and operations, Schuetz said.
Longleaf will charge the press based on the amount of sales — if sales go up, fees go up, but if sales go down, the cost does as well.
Wood said he believes the University should have an academic press, but because of the fiscal pressure faced by the University since the Great Recession in 2007, funding to support students and the academic mission has been trimmed gradually.
By restructuring UNM Press’ finances and alloting them a fixed subsidy of $350,000 a year, Wood said it will give the press a viable business model for the future and save students and taxpayers money.
He said rethinking the business model included more efficiency in completing tasks, and a big part of it is outsourcing the warehouse.
By making this move, he said the press will save money without losing intellectual functions, adding that the editorial functions are what makes a university press matter.
The combination of the costs saved by outsourcing and the new subsidy will allow the publishing house to be a permanent academic press in the state, Wood said.
“There’ve been a bunch of very (panicked) concerns that we are closing down the UNM Press...The fact is that it’s just the opposite,” Wood said. “What we’re trying to do is take action to preserve a longtime publishing effort at UNM Press for faculty, for staff, for students (and) for New Mexico.”
Of the estimated 540,000 books currently stored in the press’ warehouse, Schuetz said about two-thirds will be moved. He said Longleaf will charge per book stored, and by storing less books, it will keep the costs down.
The press also holds about 3,000 separate books for around 30 client publishers, and Schuetz said two-thirds of those books will be moved to Tennessee as well. The move will begin in April.
As for the books not included in the move, Schuetz said the majority of them will be destroyed, and some will be given back to the authors if they want them — UNM Press might also hold special sales.
He said this move is necessary to cut costs and still allow the press to continue to function as a publishing platform, adding that it can now focus on publishing, inquiring and marketing books with less support from the University.
“(Outsourcing the warehouse) actually allows us to continue publishing and supporting authors, so from that standpoint, it’s probably a good move,” Schuetz said.
Denise Chávez who runs Casa Camino Real, a bookstore in Las Cruces, has had her work published in anthologies through UNM Press in the past and said the University's decision to outsource is “small-sighted, very sad and will have repercussions for many years to come.”
Chávez said she has always loved and supported the press, which is seen as a major press nationally. She said this move says a lot about the lack of respect and love for culture and books.
“It’s hard to believe UNM cares so little for its reputation, its press, its authors and its readers,” Chávez said.
Wood said having UNM Press is important, because it allows New Mexicans to have a voice in what gets published about the state's culture, history and reality.
Madison Spratto is a news editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @Madi_Spratto.