It has become commonplace to bemoan the loss of smaller presses. The remaining large publishing houses seem intent upon as many mergers as possible until they become a single entity. These presses think almost exclusively of national or international audiences and popular tastes. They don’t seem to care very much about the nooks and crannies of our country. In response to this neglect, some independent and alternative presses, many of them quite tiny, publish delightful and surprising books. But, all along, and almost forgotten by the general public, we have been blessed by state university presses.
University presses are remarkable allies in the cause of localism. Though they publish all kinds of academic books, you’ll struggle to find a state university press that does not publish books centered on their region and their local history. It is central to their mission. Strictly academic works are certainly part of university press catalogues, but too many people have forgotten about the many other kinds of books that university presses publish.
State university presses are doing the work when it comes to the ideas behind positive localism. There is much more to their catalogs than monographs. The books they publish are often great avenues for learning about where we are. Their works explore both the physical environment of their home state and its history. In many cases, the authors they publish are also local and their book promotions privilege the in-state audience. Their extensive catalogs are also a great example of a way that a public university can serve its public.
Those who don’t want to think only on the national or international scale should browse the online catalog of their state university press. There you will find books that address wherever it is you live, often with perspectives from residents of your state. We can complain about publishing house mergers and the loss of independent newspapers, but we can also purchase books that have some intentional connection to where we live. As it happens, it seems that all or nearly all the university presses are having big sales for Christmas. You can get some really good books for as much as 40-50% off. Why not patronize some publishers who recognize the importance of place?
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