A Novel Idea

Meredith Compton

The entire staff of the Kent State University Printing Press gathers among the many books the press has published. They are responsible for more than 600 publications, including books from Kent State professors Gary Harwood (GROWING SEASON) and Michael Le

Credit: Ron Soltys

Students pick up books every day, whether for pleasure reading or class. Few, however, stop to check where the books were made. Even fewer realize that a publishing house exists on campus.

The Kent State University Press is located on the third floor of Lowry Hall and has been in operation for 42 years.

“We are the publishing arm of Kent State University,” said Will Underwood, director of the Press. The Press works to publish both scholarly and general interest titles, publishing as many as 35 titles a year.

The Press’s mission is “to advance knowledge through publishing.” Underwood said this means the Press is helping with the academic enterprise through research. He also explained what the Press means to people outside Kent State.

“In a broader sense, to people not involved with campus, we’re publishing books about our area,” he said. “We’re giving back to the citizens of Ohio.”

The Press is made up of five areas that allow it to function properly:

n Administration, which is Underwood’s office along with a bookkeeper and a secretary and journals manager.

n Acquisitions, which brings new material in.

n Editorial production, which involves the editing and proofreading of material.

n Production, which involves the overall design of the material.

n Marketing, which involves the promotion, distribution and sales of the material.

The Press gets part of its money to run through a direct subsidy from the university and the rest through sales.

“Since we are supported by the university, it allows us to publish books that are worth publishing but may not be commercially successful,” Underwood said.

There are three ways the Press receives the works it publishes.

“We go out and get them,” Underwood said to explain the first way. This involves the acquiring editor going to professional meetings and conferences and asking authors what projects they are working on, Underwood said. Occasionally the Press may also commission a work, asking an author to write about a particular topic.

The second way is when scholars send the Press a proposal about something they’re working on, and the third and least common way is when a manuscript “just shows up” at the office, Underwood said, adding that these works tend to be more of the general interest titles.

Though the Press publishes different types of titles, Underwood said they mainly specialize in history, literature and books about the region.

Some of the more noteworthy works the Press has published include a reprinting of a history of major league baseball teams that was originally printed in the 1930s, a book about the first woman to be killed in the electric chair in Ohio, and a book titled Growing Season: The Life of a Migrant Community, written by David Hassler from Kent State’s Wick Poetry Center and photographed by Gary Harwood, a photographer for Kent State.

Growing Season is not the only special Kent State project the Press has published. It has been publishing the Wick Poetry Center’s book for more than 10 years and has commissioned a history of Kent State to be written by 2009 – just in time for the university’s centennial. For this project, Underwood went to the university’s administration himself to gain support.

The Press has even published some Kent State professors’ works but does not publish textbooks or course packets.

There are currently nine full-time employees and one part-time employee at the Press. The Press also has undergraduate interns from the English and marketing departments. These interns work for course credit and usually intern for two semesters, though they may intern for four semesters.

Underwood said everyone works together at the Press.

“We all rely on each other,” Underwood said. “It’s a team effort.”

Contact features writer Meredith Compton at [email protected].