Well known for being the oldest scholarly publisher in Ohio, Ohio University Press continues to publish outstanding books from all genres.
Formally organized in 1964 by Vernon Alden, OU Press has gained quite a name for itself. It remains one of the leading publishers of books about Africa, Appalachia, Southeast Asia and the Midwest, as well as publishing 45 to 50 books a year.
“The support of campus departments and the administration's certainly gave us the ability to leverage opportunities to publish well outside of our strength,” Stephanie Williams, director of OU Press, said. “And that's made all the difference.”
The Press is also well recognized for its focus on African Studies, publishing several award-winning books. As of 2018, Paul Ocobock’s book, An Uncertain Age: The Politics of Manhood in Kenya, was named a finalist for the Bethwell A. Ogot Prize from the African Studies Association.
Other books like Julie MacAurthur’s, Cartography and the Political Imagination, won the 2018 Joel Gregory Prize and was a finalist in the 2017 Bethwell A. Ogot Prize from the African Studies Association.
“One of my ideas is to translate that success to African American Studies,” Williams said. “So that we are talking about Africana Studies in a way that the academic area is talking about these issues between the continent and the United States.”
The Press’ focus on African Studies has spanned nearly three decades, gaining rise when Steve Howard, OU associate director for graduate studies for the School of Media Arts and Studies, brought forth many contributions to African Studies.
Dr. Brandon Kendhammer, assistant professor of political science, just recently published his book Boko Haram, along with co-author Carmen McCain. The book focuses on African Studies, specifically Nigerian terrorist groups.
When deciding on a publisher, Kendhammer and McCainhad had no doubt they wanted it to be OU Press.
“They were very enthusiastic and interested in including our book in their special African Short Histories series,” Kendhammer said. “That attention, and the fact that they had a really good plan and system in place to market our book to a wide audience of readers interested in African issues, was the key factor in us in choosing them.”
Not only did Kendhammer pick OU Press because of its specialization in African Studies, but because its small size had a big impact on their decision.
“In all, I’d say that I was very fortunate to have had the chance to be able to work with such a great team of editors, designers and back-office folks at the Press.” Kendhammer said. “The fact that they are smaller and more specialized than some of the bigger academic presses meant that they knew a lot about my book’s subject matter and the kind of audience we were writing for.”
Andrea Gapsch, a junior studying English, is an intern at OU Press and is grateful for the opportunities to grow more in her field.
“Over time, my responsibilities have grown… I've kind of got to experience the other fields of publishing,” Gapsch said. “It's a really great experience, especially because that's what employers are looking for. (With) young people, one of the main issues is that they don't have enough experience. So as soon as you can get an internship at a publishing house, it really helps.”
Recently the Press’ spring catalog came in, with many books focused on Ohionan stories and culture.
“We're always interested in publishing great work on Ohio. Its people, its history, its culture,” Williams said. “Great books by, for and of Ohio.”
Its spring catalog includes books such as Fire in the Big House: America’s Deadliest Prison Disaster by Mitchel Roth. The book is about the a historical Ohioan prison fire, which is still considered the deadliest prison disaster in U.S. history today.
How OU Press continues to draw in new authors and even new interns time and time again relies solely on the staff’s devotion and dedication throughout the book publishing process.
“One of the consistent things over the years has been our support for first time authors,” Williams said. “The level of attention that we pay in the editorial process all the way through to sales and marketing processes is one reason that people keep coming to us.”