I just spent a day and one-half at the AAUP Southern Presses Confernence, in Jacksonville, Florida. The conference was hosted by the University Press of Florida.
What struck me hardest at this show is how these presses are still struggling to find markets for their books, and how to profitably publish 'works that matter' but will only sell a few hundred (or less) copies per year. These university press publishers (and all others, I suspect) are trying to figure out how to make their titles work, in a marketplace that is shifting.
Their seemed to be few if any new ideas presented at the conference. Many of the ideas are good, but pretty worn out: Print on Demand, the Google Print program, finding new markets – have been a staple of conferences for the last few years.
What also struck me was the 'older' nature of the sponsors. Most of us were printers, and other production related companies. Quality Solutions was one of the only technology companies there. This is NOT to say that this is wrong. I am sure that the conference organizers were very happy to have every sponsor there. It just helped reinforce the feeling that collectively, we were not thinking outside the box. It also made me wonder why the rest of the 'vendor' community did not see the value of being there.
On the positive side, I have to say that I really liked being part of the conference. The intimacy of this small conference was really nice, and it reinforces the personal side of this business which is why I got into it in the first place.