During its more than ninety years of continuous operation, the University of Oklahoma Press has gained international recognition as an outstanding publisher of scholarly literature. It was the first university press established in the Southwest, and the fourth in the western half of the country.
The Press began as the idea of William Bennett Bizzell, fifth president of the University of Oklahoma and a wide-ranging humanist and book collector. Over the years, the Press has grown from a staff of one--the first director, Joseph A. Brandt--to an active and capable team of almost thirty-five members.
Building on the foundation laid by our previous directors, OU Press continues its dedication to the publication of outstanding scholarly works. The major goal of the Press is to strengthen its position as a preeminent publisher of books about the American West and American Indians, while expanding its program in other scholarly disciplines, including classical studies, military history, political science, and natural science.
In some ways it's easier to describe a university press by saying what it's not. University presses don't publish college newspapers, yearbooks, or course packs. And if you visit a university press, you won't find a printing press - or a dry cleaning plant.
University presses are publishers. At the most basic level that means they perform the same tasks as any other publisher -- university presses acquire, develop, design, produce, market and sell books and journals, just like Random House or Condé Nast. But while commercial publishers focus on making money by publishing for popular audiences, the university press's mission is to publish work of scholarly, intellectual, or creative merit, often for a small audience of specialists.
University presses also differ from commercial publishers because of their place in the academic landscape. A university press is an extension of its parent institution, and it's also a key player in a more general network -- including learned societies, scholarly associations, and research libraries -- that makes scholarly endeavor possible. Like the other nodes in this network, university presses are charged with serving the public good by generating and disseminating knowledge. That's why the government has recognized our common interest in the work of university presses by granting them not-for-profit status.
Many of the books university presses publish, then, are meant primarily for scholars or other people interested in certain concentrated fields of research. Thousands of these books (generally termed monographs) have been published, on topics ranging from the meaning of gambling in nineteenth-century America to the changing nature of Balinese gamelan music. Monographs are generally sold in hardcover editions to libraries, and increasingly in paperback editions so that they may be used as supplemental reading in college courses.
Though scholarship is central to the mission of university presses, most also publish books of more general interest. That might mean narrative history, or poetry, or fiction translated from other languages. As commercial publishers increasingly turn away from books that are deemed unlikely to make a lot of money, university presses have found new fields to publish in -- and new audiences for their books. Because university presses are located all over the country, they also specialize in publishing books about the culture and history of different parts of America that attract less attention from commercial houses. You'll find general interest titles from university presses alongside the bestsellers at your local bookstore. Courtesy of the Association of American University Presses