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The Capital Times & Wisconsin State Journal

UW Press To Publish Spanish Lit

By Sophia Estante, The Capital Times

March 3, 2004
Copyright ©2004 Bell & Howell Information and Learning Company. All rights reserved.

Last fall, the University of Wisconsin Press launched a new line of books aimed at the popular reader. This spring, the press will launch another new line of books, this time aimed at the popular Spanish-language reader.

By next year the new line, the Americas Literary Initiative, will be one of the press' largest specialty areas, accounting for nearly a quarter of the 125 titles that the press releases each year.

"There are 38 million Hispanics in America. They're the fastest growing population," says Robert Mandel, director of the UW Press. "It's our belief that they want to maintain their culture and their traditions. They want to read mainstream books in Spanish."

To cater to this growing market, UW Press will publish 14 books this year and 14 books next year as part of the Americas Literary Initiative. The initiative will become an official imprint of the UW Press next year.

It just makes sense to publish Spanish titles in Spanish, Mandel says.

"We're going to publish 'Prisoner Without a Name, Cell Without a Number' by the Latin American writer Jacobo Timerman. The book is a classic in world literature," Mandel said about the 1982 first- person, prize-winning account of a Buenos Aires newspaper editor who was arrested, imprisoned and then sent into exile by the military dictatorship. "Someone came up to me and said, 'Wouldn't it be nice if that was in Spanish?' I was so surprised that it wasn't available in Spanish."

The initiative will build on the UW Press' strength in publishing scholarly works related to Latin American studies. UW-Madison has one of the top 10 Latin American studies programs in the country.

The Americas Literary Initiative will publish both classic works and more popular titles.

"We are trying to reach out to publishers in Latin America who were originators of these books," Mandel says.

The Latin American publishers will generally maintain rights to selling the book in Latin America, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. The UW Press will have rights to sell the book to the rest of the world.

"We split the world market," Mandel says.

Working with publishers in Latin America offsets what it would cost for the UW Press to hire copy editors, editors and typists fluent in Spanish.

In most cases, books in the Americas Literary Initiative series will also be available in English.

In the face of budget cuts, the UW Press hopes to tap into a new source of income with this line.

"Although we have a commitment to publishing scholarly works, and although those titles are very important, we have had to start publishing more general interest titles," says Deirdre Woods, publicity manager at the UW Press.

The unveiling of Terrace Books at the Wisconsin Book Festival last fall was the press' first move in a more commercial direction. Terrace Books, which takes its name after the Memorial Union Terrace, publishes novels, memoirs and nonfiction intended to appeal to general readers.

This spring, Terrace Books will release "Nowhere in Africa," on which the 2002 Academy Award-winning film of the same name was based.

"The last four years have been really tough for university presses," Mandel says. "The University of Chicago, Harvard, MIT and Princeton - all presses that typically make money - have lost money in the past few years."

He says he hoped that the sale of more popular titles would help to underwrite the cost of publishing scholarly books.

UW Press has had recent success with its line of books on gay and lesbian studies and Holocaust studies. The press also publishes books on Wisconsin and Wisconsin culture.

"The nature of university publishing has completely changed in the last 20 years," Mandel says. "Libraries used to be a major purchaser, but sales to libraries have dropped. Now we have to sell books through bookstores. It has really changed the nature of what we publish."

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