Rice University Press is Closing

Rice University Press went all digital in 2006 and will be closing completely in September. As noted in this Chronicle article, this is particularly sad news because Rice’s experiment with going all digital held so much promise for greater sustainability.
The Chronicle article mentions an important point that I hadn’t realized: that Rice had a catalog of only approximately 20 titles. This makes sense given the labor required to edit and publish an academic text – whether digital and/or in print. However with so few volumes, the long tail effect doesn’t have much of a chance of being sustainable.
I hope that the announcement of its closing is premature, and that Rice UP is given more time. If not, the experiment hasn’t been given enough resources and time to succeed. Rice UP needs a larger catalog and a more diverse portfolio (academic books, books digitized at Rice, collaborative projects with the library, collaborative projects with the bookstore for university history books, etc)  before the actual test of sustainability can even begin, much less complete. I hope that we’ll see this experiment continue with the necessary resources for it to be a valid test.


  1. I’m sure they were counting on the few titles being highly utilized: you can’t count on low utilization items (long tail) being viable without a ton of them, and you need a lot of resources to support a ton. Amazon has a shot because it has a huge, scalable infrastructure in place for the mainstream stuff, and the rest can ride almost free. If you are banking on a few titles, they’d better do a lot of turns.

  2. Do you know of other institutions starting digital presses similar to Rice’s?

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