Meet new Press Director Amy Brand (part two)

We present the second half of Editorial Director Gita Manaktala’s conversation with the Press’s new Director, Amy Brand. You can read part one here.

Do you envision major changes in the Press’s offerings?

It’s too soon to say how major any changes in topical coverage will be. I’m interested in alignment with the Institute’s strengths, especially where we know we have faculty writing books. For example, we could be doing more in engineering—this is MIT after all! And I think we will benefit from following the Institute’s lead on major initiatives such as SOLVE.

Will the Press continue to invest in physical book design and production?

The distinctive excellence of the Press’s design and production only become more important as we compete with non-print media for readers’ attention. People increasingly buy print books to own beautiful objects, not just for the information the books contain.

The Press publishes more than thirty scholarly journals in a wide range of fields. What opportunities and challenges do you see in this area?

AB: I would like to see us initiate or acquire a handful of additional titles in the coming year or two, since we have the infrastructure to publish more on the journals front. We also need to continue the trends already under way towards online-only, where it makes sense, and towards open access, again, where feasible. Our choice of new titles should be driven by, among other things, data about government and foundation funding for particular fields of research.

During your previous stint at the press, you helped to develop its digital cognitive science collection, CogNet, which recently relaunched on a new platform. Do you expect to extend the CogNet model to other subject areas?

Big yes here. Providing content and collaboration platforms in other areas is a major focus, and several new partnerships are already in the works. At the same time, we need to continue to enhance the functionality of our core platform.

The MIT Press was a pioneer in web based book publishing, going online in 1995 with a fully digital book. Do you anticipate more browser based publishing?

Another big yes, although it is too soon for me to say what particular direction we’ll take here. I first have to get my head around what is actually growing and working for us on the e-book front.

What other initiatives do you have in mind for the Press?

Among the many things I’m interested in exploring in the near term is creating a membership model, as another source of revenue. Unlike many of our peer presses, I believe we have the brand and cachet to build an individual membership offering that provides privileged access of various kinds, and I would like to form a staff team at the Press to help flesh out this idea. Another near-term initiative under consideration is re-grouping and re-classifying some of our existing titles into new topic areas, such as “sustainability studies,” as a way of getting a quick foothold for future development efforts, as well as for marketing purposes. At the moment, I’m also trying to continue the work that Ellen Faran, Rebecca Schrader, and others on the senior management team already started to raise the funds needed to enhance key aspects of our technical infrastructure.