Editorial: Reality check for UNM Press

University of New Mexico Press is more than a vanity operation. Established in 1929, it is known for publishing books about Southwestern and Western American history, culture and literature, Native American and Hispanic studies, and archaeology and anthropology, among others.

But it’s been running in the red for years and has accumulated $6.3 million in debt. Now it’s time for some belt tightening.

And UNM President Bob Frank took the belt up a notch, moving UNM Press from Academic Affairs to Institutional Support Services, a move he hopes will lead to financial solvency.

The university also took away an annual $250,000 subsidy to the publishing house. That was partly in response to a 5 percent budget cut to the university that the Legislature passed in a special session last month to help plug a $589 million state budget deficit.

“In our current fiscal environment, we simply cannot allow this level of overspending to continue,” Frank said in the memo announcing the shift.

The press was nearly half a million dollars short in Fiscal Year 2016. It’s average net annual sales from fiscal year 2012 to 2015 were about $2.2 million. UNM Press published about 70 books last year and that may be reduced, according to Frank.

While staffers referred to declining print sales and “significant start-up costs” for digital distribution as challenges, reality is that sales and popularity of actual paper and cloth books are on the wane. Newer generations, like Millennials, read their books electronically.

UNM Press must change if it is to survive. Frank really had no choice but to push it in that direction.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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