Administered by:
University of Cambridge
University press
A university press is an academic publishing house specializing in academic monographs and scholarly journals. Most are nonprofit and an integral component of a large research university. They publish work that has been reviewed by scholars in the field. They produce mainly scholarly works, but also often have "popular" titles, such as books on religion or on regional topics. Because scholarly books are mostly unprofitable, university presses may also publish textbooks and reference works, which tend to have larger audiences and sell more copies. Most university presses operate at a loss and are subsidized by their owners; others are required to break even. Demand has fallen as library budgets are cut and the online sales of used books undercut the new book market. Many presses are experimenting with electronic publishing.

In the United States, colonial colleges required printers to publish university catalogs, ceremonial materials, and a limited number of scholarly publications. Following the 17th-century work of Harvard College printer Samuel Green, William Hilliard of Cambridge, Massachusetts, began publishing materials under the name "University Press" in 1802. Modern university presses emerged in the United States in the late 19th century. Cornell University started one in 1869 but had to close it down; Johns Hopkins University Press has been in continuous operation since 1878. The University of Pennsylvania Press (1890), University of Chicago Press (1891), University of California Press (1893), Northwestern University Press (1893), and Columbia University Press (1893) followed.

By the time of independence in 1947, India had a well-established system of universities, and several leading ones developed a university press. The main areas of activity include monographs by professors, research papers and theses, and textbooks for undergraduate use. However, the basic problem faced by scholarly publishers in India is the use of multiple languages, which splintered and reduced the base of potential sales.

In 2008, the Association of American University Presses (AAUP) has 125 member presses, of which 95 were operated by universities. Growth has been sporadic, with 14 presses established in the 1940s, 11 in the 1950s; and 19 in the 1960. Since 1970, 16 universities have opened presses and several have closed. Today, the largest university press in the United States is the University of Chicago Press. University presses tend to develop specialized areas of expertise, such as regional studies. For instance, Yale publishes many art books, the Chicago, Duke and Indiana publish many academic journals, the University of Illinois press specializes in labor history, MIT Press publishes linguistics and architecture titles, Northwestern University Press publishes in continental philosophy, poetry, and the performing arts, and the Catholic University of America Press publishes works that deal with Catholic theology, philosophy, and church history.

Financially, university presses have come under growing pressure from their University sponsors to cut their losses. Only a few presses, such as Oxford, Harvard, Princeton, and Yale have endowments; the others depend upon sales and subventions from their University. The subsidies typically range from $150,000 to $500,000. Sales of academic books have been declining, however, especially as University libraries cut back their purchases. At Princeton University Press in the 1960s, a typical hardcover monograph would sell 1660 copies in the five years after publication. By 1984 that average had declined to 1003 and in after 2000 typical sales of monographs for all presses are below 500. University libraries are under heavy pressure to purchase very expensive subscriptions to commercial science journals, even as their overall budgets are static. By 1997 scientific journals were thirty times more expensive than they were in 1970.

In May, 2012, the University of Missouri System announced that it would close the University of Missouri Press so that it might focus more efficiently on strategic priorities. Friends of the press from around the country rallied to its support, arguing that by publishing over 2000 scholarly books the press made a major contribution to scholarship. A few months later the university reversed its decision.