Back in August, we asked member presses to think about their work in a new way: geographical impact. What better way to show university press “contributions to culture, the academy, and society” in the modern, global publishing economy than to visually illustrate their reach? This was the idea behind the Mapping Our Influence project.
Using the Google Custom Maps tool, we developed an iconographic key to represent authors, subjects, and other points that might be plotted. The simplicity of the Google Maps construct allowed us to imagine a variety of maps: a season’s worth of titles, a disciplinary list, a regional focus. But of course, soon maps started rolling in—38 to date—and the virtual pushpins took on a rainbow of new meanings.
Melissa Pitts, director at University of British Columbia Press, piloted the Maps project with Valerie Nair, Assistant to the Publisher, and the press’s current work-study student. UBC Press mapped authors and subject matter from the latest season, and then got creative with adding events and awards. (Their map is here.) Clusters of pins color the Vancouver and Toronto areas, scattering thickly across Canada and down through the US, reaching west across the Pacific to Japan and New Zealand, east across the Atlantic to northern Europe and Israel.
And yet, with markers blooming like party balloons or bright speech bubbles—“we’re here! and here and here and here!”—across the globe, Pitts notes that the map is most definitely a work in progress. It currently represents 2011 and 2012 publications, which Pitts plans to continue to expand with new seasons. She’s considering integrating it into the publication process for each new book, carrying it beyond University Press Week.
Future iterations, possibly to be used in meetings with the university administration, may build off of other presses’ ideas—like that of University of New Mexico Press.
New Mexico’s map is a monochromatic blue: 367 pins representing libraries around the globe that have purchased 2012 publications. (See the map here.) Unsurprisingly, the US has transformed to a sea of blue, with outliers marking off libraries around the globe, both public and university—in Peru, South Africa, Malaysia, China…the list goes on.
“We did consider several options including maps showing the locations of our authors or the subjects of our recent books (or a combination of several metrics),” writes New Mexico director John Byram. “The problem was capturing and representing data that succinctly reflected the Press’s global footprint most dramatically. A map showing the location of libraries who purchased our new books in the last calendar year seemed to offer the best opportunity to represent the influence we have as a publishing operation both for scholars and for the general public.”
Like Pitts, Byram has plans to update the map; he’s already shared it with the press’s faculty advisory board and the university administration. Temple University Press Director Alex Holzman has done the same: “It’s become my favorite new toy in presentations to both administration and faculty. Temple’s been emphasizing its international presence in recent years and I’ve been saying that our books have a presence on every continent except possibly Antarctica. Saying it is one thing; all these pins provide a fabulous graphic showing it. I also think the map is a great acquisitions tool. What author doesn’t want to daydream about people around the world reading their work?”
Holzman is referring to the unique elements of the Temple map: the press also mapped 2012 authors and subjects, but on top of that, two more colors to denote, first, countries where local publishers have licensed rights for their particular languages, and second, every country where Temple books have been purchased. (Take a look here.) The former, language rights, pop up in Brazil, India, South Korea, and more; the latter, purchases, truly cover the globe—and from 2012 titles alone. Says publicist Gary Kramer, “we were happily amazed at the extent of what we were able to cover with just this one year of data”. And Holzman is already brainstorming new maps for the coming years: “I could think of a few—course adoptions come to mind—but I’ll let Gary and Brian [who plotted the map] take a break first!”