Meet the UI Press: For the love of money

The University of Illinois Press, like most academic and small publishing concerns, faces an uncertain fiscal environment that depends on many factors—politics, capitalism, snack machine revenue—beyond our control. Throughout the AAUP, indeed throughout the academy, managers and staffers alike incessantly search for ways to cut costs. It’s not easy, what with everything going up in price all the time. But the conscientious women, men, and very bright lemurs who staff university presses manage to save countless dollars as they bring the public the knowledge it needs to keep America a barely functioning democracy.

For a moment, let’s turn our backs on the red ink and look into the black.

Seven words: new revenue streams to bring in funding.

In the non-profit arena we call this sort of thing “development” or, alternately, “holding a bake sale.” What if it’s the way to go? What if the AAUP’s hard-working presses embraced the only-blue-sky-ahead possibilities of “development” or, alternately, “selling out“? Now, please dig that we use the term “selling out” in jest. The vision being proposed sees all of us remaining credibly non-profit, with the intellectual freedom and dearth of 24-carat gold desk chairs suggested by such a moniker.

Over the coming weeks we will present a number of ideas intended to inspire our sibling AAUP presses, and our small press siblings-in-arms, to consider new ways to finance the important work that all of us do. To kick off this essential project, let’s consider a funding source that, though often pooh-poohed, perhaps needs a second look in these uncertain times:

Strategy No. 1: Selling lottery tickets

The UIP building stands so far on the outskirts of campus that it is closer to Champaign’s civilian population than to a great majority of the students. It also stands in what demographers call a “lottery desert,” meaning there are no lottery ticket dispensers within a solid three blocks of our address.

With foot traffic at its summertime peak—workers heading to lunch, hobos hopping off the nearby freight trains—selling lottery tickets to fund cutting-edge anthropology scholarship is a gimme. There’s no risk of game fatigue, either, as the lottery offers a huge number of gambling options with all kinds of fun names. One game even specifically funds veterans’ groups, while another sends money to schools, and so on. A grocery store near here hosts a lottery vending machine. Some of the scratch-off tickets inside go for thirty bucks! That will buy a lot of copier paper.

The lottery also fits into our non-profit paradigm in that selling the tickets requires no expensive training or even basic English skills. Space needs are minimal, as any visit to a convenience store makes clear. So just take state permission, add a light-up sign that shows the jackpot for Lotto and Mega-Millions and Superpowerlottosphere, throw in a broom to sweep up all the scratch-off losers left on the floor, and it’s easy profits. And if by some fantastic chance one of your customers wins a jackpot, your press gets a share of the take.

Next time: llama herding!