The Princeton University Press has seen a 7 to 8 percent decline in revenue from a year ago as a result of the economic downturn, director Peter Dougherty told The Daily Princetonian on Wednesday. Dougherty noted that the University Press is lucky: Many peer institutions have seen a 15 to 25 percent reduction.
Dougherty explained that book-publishing companies nationwide are experiencing the impact of the recession, adding that he is concerned about the future of independent bookstores.
“The wholesalers and distributors are just keeping lean inventories,” Dougherty said. “In the past, they were much quicker in re-ordering books.”
Graduate-level textbooks are one of the Press’ key strengths, Dougherty said.
Other members of the Press — which was founded in 1905 and is located on William Street — attributed its relative resilience to its diversity of titles, strong textbook sales and international outreach.
Dougherty said that Princeton and Yale have the only university presses with offices abroad. In 2000, the Press opened a European office in Oxfordshire, England.
Officials at the Press have to contend with profits falling because of the recession as well as another problem afflicting the entire publishing industry: digital piracy.
Members of the Press said it was impossible to determine the impact of digital piracy on its business, but they pointed to illegal file-sharing as a growing problem throughout the publishing world.
Assistant Press Director and Marketing Director Adam Fortgang said he believes that participation in various internet book programs, such as those of Google and Amazon, has always been a positive experience. But he noted that file-sharing websites, which are mainly hosted abroad, have been a nuisance for the company and others in the industry.
“We’re one of the only University presses actively involved in combating this,” Fortgang said.
Fortgang added that the Press is unusual in its efforts to combat piracy and has an employee responsible for checking various file-sharing websites for illegally uploaded PDF files.
Fortgang said that the Press has been sending out “cease and desist” letters to the various websites requesting that they remove the illegal files.
Most websites comply with initial requests to take down illegally uploaded books. But the documents often show up days or weeks later under different file names. Additionally, legal action against owners of websites in foreign countries would be difficult, Fortgang noted.
Fortgang explained that future legal action by the Press and the Association of American Publishers against the sites that do not cooperate was a possibility, though a complicated one.
Brigitta van Rheinberg, editor-in-chief and executive editor of the Princeton University Press, said that piracy is a major concern for the organization and that some of its textbooks are victims of internet pirates.
“All publishers are experiencing this … There are pirated copies of the ‘Princeton Companion to Mathematics’ online, and nobody’s happy about this,” van Rheinberg said.
She explained that though the Press does not know how copies of its books were leaked before publication, the leaks might be occurring when the files are sent to the printers, copy shops or foreign publishers.
Fortgang explained that he believed digital pirates fell into two categories: “literary anarchists,” who believe that information should be free,and profit-seekers, who rely on the ad revenue from such websites.
Dougherty said that the Press would be vigilant and continue to check websites for pirated copies of its books. One possible mechanism would be to wrap files more securely and begin to use watermarks to show that the documents belong to the company.
“[Digital pirates are] violating copyright and pirating the work of people who put their lives into the writing and publication of their books,” Dougherty said.
An earlier version of this article stated that profits at the University Press dropped by 8 percent when, in fact, it was the revenue that fell by this amount.