Scholarly Publishing Office

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The Scholarly Publishing Office (SPO) was a unit of the University of Michigan Library devoted to developing innovative and economically sustainable publishing and distribution models for scholarly discourse. Its staff, services, and imprints are now part of Michigan Publishing. Created in 2001, the Scholarly Publishing Office provided a suite of publishing services to scholars at U-M and beyond, in order to provide alternatives to commercial academic publishing. In addition to developing cost-effective methods of publication, SPO also helped scholars increase access to their work by making it openly available online, within a trusted and durable digital library environment. Library-based publishing services such as those offered by the Scholarly Publishing Office contribute to a more robust, efficient, and diverse system of scholarly communication. In 2009 it was absorbed into a new brand name, "MPublishing", was in turn renamed to "Michigan Publishing" in 2013.


SPO was unique among publishers because of its affiliation with a major university library. Historically, libraries have defined their mission according to the rubrics of collecting, preserving, cataloging, and distributing the fruits of scholarly inquiry. For many years this broadly conceived mission has sufficed; today, the economics of the publishing world have created a situation in which the status quo is impossible to maintain. Library budgets for public universities like the U-M are either cut or stagnant, while the costs of publishing in print form continue to rise. Publishing conglomerates drive subscription rates up, while libraries struggle—and in many case fail—to keep up. Smaller academic publishing houses do not generate sufficient revenue to support themselves, and their institutional subsidies have been slashed. Many presses have closed, and those that remain have raised prices for their books to a near-prohibitive level, further restricting sales.

Harnessing the flexibility and relatively inexpensive resources of electronic publishing, SPO responded to the economic challenges of scholarly publication by providing a cost-effective, sustainable, permanent, and user-friendly publishing option for journals that could not sustain the cost of print publication and distribution.

Projects and Publications[edit]

Starting with Philosopher's Imprint, a peer-reviewed journal produced by the University of Michigan Department of Philosophy, SPO published over a dozen journals and provided for-fee hosting for non-profit academic organizations' subscription products. For example, SPO hosted the American Council of Learned Society's ACLS Humanities Ebook (now hosted by Michigan Publishing) and the Law Library Microfilm Consortium's LLMC-Digital, a database of legal research materials. SPO also offered limited monograph publication and a print on demand service, as well as offering non-traditional publication services, such as online versions of exhibits curated by the University of Michigan's Special Collections Library.

SPO began a collaboration with the University of Michigan Press, called the Michigan Digital Publishing Initiative, to explore the possibilities of new publishing partnerships between libraries and traditional, print-based academic presses. The first fruits of this alliance was digitalculturebooks, an imprint that offers books on the role of technology in contemporary society in both print and digital formats.

SPO actively pursued new and promising partnerships and publication opportunities. For example, it released the online publication of the Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists (BASP), in partnership with the University of Michigan Library's Papyrology Collection. BASP is the only journal in the field of papyrology published in North America and is the official journal of the American Society of Papyrologists.

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