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Wilfrid Laurier University Communications, Public Affairs & Marketing
August 29, 2014
 
 
Canadian Excellence


WLU Press director Brian Henderson

Wilfrid Laurier University Press



Taking a “calculated risk” to be among the first Canadian university presses to embrace electronic publishing earned Wilfrid Laurier University Press a place at the forefront of the technology – and a successful sale of scholarly titles.

In 2000, when WLU Press director Brian Henderson joined Laurier, the digitizing of books was still emerging. While the team at the Press wasn’t sure of all the implications, they decided to experiment.

“We wanted to take a calculated risk,” said Henderson. “We really had no idea what we were doing, but we knew we had to get there.”

They got there by starting with a few titles and making journals available online. Concerned about the impact it would have on their physical books, they instituted a moratorium that made the digital versions available two years after the physical books were released.

In 2006, they negotiated a deal to digitize a backlist of 450 titles. Shortly afterwards, the Canadian Research Knowledge Network (CRKN) – an instrument of the university research libraries in the country -- put out a request for digital materials and the Press was in a position to respond. They were able to help establish the negotiating process and assemble a consortium of Canadian publishers to present titles.

The Press had one of the largest collections among publishers, and earned $1 million for their catalogue.

“The Press ended up with a nifty bundle of money. Now we are able to invest that money into the infrastructure,” said Henderson.

Future plans include investigating digital book readers, social media marketing, and a new database that will let them digitize catalogues.

“This is an amazing industry.”

Established in 1974, the Press has been typesetting books electronically since 1984, and in 1994 became one of the first scholarly publishers in Canada to establish a web presence. Publishing close to 30 titles a year, it is known for its scholarly publishing in the areas of history, literature, sociology, social work, life writing, film and media studies, aboriginal studies, women’s studies, philosophy, and religious studies.