University Press of Florida celebrates 75 years of publishing By Joseph Kays
Archaeologist Jerald Milanich has seen a lot of changes in the book business over the course of nearly 50 years writing and editing more than 70 books published by University Press of Florida (UPF).
“I had a front-row seat to the many changes University Press went through over the years,” says Milanich, a curator emeritus at the Florida Museum of Natural History whose UPF books include Florida’s Indians from Ancient Times to the Present and Hidden Seminoles: Julian Dimock’s Historic Florida Photographs. “Perhaps the most fun was participating in the evolution of the book production process from blue-pencil-wielding copy editors and indices compiled on index cards to word processors and an array of software that has streamlined book editing and design.”
Milanich is one of hundreds of authors who have had their scholarship published through UPF since its founding 75 years ago as the University of Florida Press. Today, it is one of the largest university presses in the Southeast, with more than 2,500 titles in its catalog.
“We’ve come a long way since our first book,” says UPF Director Romi Gutierrez as she points to a commemorative reissue of the press’ first book, Florida Under Five Flags, among an array of books spread across a large conference table in the press’ new home on UF’s East Campus.
Other titles on display include Ditch of Dreams: The Cross Florida Barge Canal and the Struggle for Florida’s Future by Steven Noll, master lecturer in history and David Tegeder, professor of history at Santa Fe College; Paradise Lost? The Environmental History of Florida co-edited by history Professor Jack Davis; Uelsmann Untitled: A Retrospective by photography Professor Emeritus Jerry Uelsmann; and Fort Mose: Colonial America’s Black Fortress of Freedom by Florida Museum archaeology Curators Kathleen Deagan and Darcie MacMahon.
“UPF provides a valuable service to the state by providing an outlet for both academic books and books about Florida for a more general audience,” says Ditch of Dreams author Noll. “The editors understood that we wanted to publish a book that could be used in college classrooms but also would be read by the public. The fact that Ditch of Dreams is still in print almost 10 years later speaks to the wonderful job UPF did in working with us.”
As Florida’s oldest book publisher, UPF has evolved over the years from just serving the University of Florida to representing all 12 State University System of Florida institutions today.
“As Florida added more public universities, the need for a centralized university press became apparent,” says Gutierrez.
From the thousands of proposals the press receives each year, an editorial committee with representatives from 11 SUS institutions approves about 100 projects for publication.
“They go through an internal vetting process, then a peer-review process,” she says, “and only when the project makes it through those hurdles does the board review the project.”
Gutierrez echoes Milanich’s memories of the technological revolution in the book publishing business.
“UPF has undergone a total conversion to electronic editing and production,” she says, adding that the process from proposal through editing, graphic design, marketing and sales is handled by a staff of 31. “The press ranks in the top third of Association of University Presses (AUP) presses for sales and new title production.”
Books from the press have received many awards from AUP and other academic organizations. Some have been named to Amazon’s bestseller list and chosen for book clubs. Both academic and general interest books have received accolades such as starred reviews in Publishers Weekly and a featured essay in the New York Times Book Review and mentions in the New York Review of Books, the Times Literary Supplement, the Village Voice and The Nation.
Books are distributed to retailers, as well as sold through the press website.