Jason Gosnell's Essay
Academe would suffer greatly without the existence of university presses because we provide many useful scholarly resources in the form of academic manuscripts and academic journals, which help a range of individuals perform scholarly research—from freshmen writing a research paper, to grad students writing theses and dissertations, to professors establishing tenure. Without the robust reviewing and fact-checking of information that academic publishers provide, the quality of information provided to scholars would also decline.
University presses publish peer-reviewed scholarship of value and typically have many different levels of review, including a board and reviewers, to ensure the accuracy and value of the scholarship they are publishing. This is in stark contrast to self-publishing or vanity presses, which scholars would have to use without the existence of university presses—most scholarly and regional books would not be appealing to trade publishers.
Therefore, university presses provide much-needed support to publish regional and academic works that would otherwise not see the light of day or that would not get the same amount of material support from other, larger publishers. This support includes editorial (proofreading, copyediting), design, and marketing, all of which would not be available to manuscripts that could not find a home in trade publishing.
As the closure and subsequent reopening of the University of Missouri Press and the University of Akron Press illustrate, there is a real loss of cultural identity and regional scholarship when a university press is closed. Often, public outcry from the closure of these regional publishing institutions, coupled with the resilience of the staff and our constituents (authors, series editors, etc.), forces the shuttered presses to be reopened by university administrations because they provide valuable academic services to the institutions and states they serve.
Incidentally, West Virginia University Press is the only university press in the state. West Virginia University Press provides regional and academic publications that may not otherwise be published, including regional fiction titles and academic scholarship that is relevant to West Virginia University and West Virginia as a whole.