Laura Weeks: Why University Presses Matter

Lorelei Books on Washington Street in Vicksburg
The following is a guest entry from Laura Weeks, owner of Lorelei Books in Vicksburg, Mississippi. For University Press Week, we asked for her thoughts on why university presses matter.

When Lorelei Books opened, I’d planned on selling regional interest books to tourists. What really surprised me is the number of them I sell to local customers. Mississippians seem to never tire of learning about their state.

I’m not counting on large presses to meet these needs. If regional interest books are published by the big houses, they inevitably go out of print once sales wane. University Press of Mississippi has been known to rescue these.

University Press of Mississippi also contributes to my community by bringing authors to readers. No one can blame large publishers for bypassing small bookstores in small towns when scheduling author tours. Theirs is a volume industry. University presses operate within the cosmos of the region, and sometimes this presents surprising opportunities. Significant post-event sales can be realized even if turnout is modest, and are not limited to the brick-and-mortar storefront. I’ve shipped signed copies of books about the Mississippi Delta to states well above the Mason-Dixon Line after customers visited the bookstore’s website.

Finally, a word about quality: Booksellers pay their bills with every book sold, even those that are poorly-written and carried up the bestseller list by hype. And our customers have the right to read them. The well-researched and rigorously edited works of university presses add balance - or in Lorelei Books’ case, a dramatic list to one side.

A customer once remarked, “Wow! It’s as if you’ve hand-selected all the good books!” This is, after all, our job. It separates the bookseller from the grocer and everyone else who thinks they belong in our business. A bookstore with a lot of university press titles packs a big wow, and keeps readers coming back for more.


Anonymous said…
Thank you, Laura. This is why our Mississippi booksellers matter! Leila
Teresa Kravtin said…
Indeed. Well stated, Laura.