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University of Toledo Press succeeds by thinking small

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You won’t find any of the 18 books published by the University of Toledo Press on bestseller lists. You won’t even find them on the shelves of your local bookstore, because with the UT Press, numbers don’t tell its story.

With roots that date back to 2002, the press started as part of the university’s Urban Affairs Center. Its  first books focused on the history of ethnic communities in Toledo, including Hungarians, Irish, and the Iroquois people, said Barbara Floyd, press director.

Distribution is limited. Production runs are small, and sales are just as small, but the UT Press plays an important role in seeing that good books about Toledo and northwest Ohio are available for area residents to read.

“Nobody has as a focus the history of our community. These books are important for that reason,” said Floyd. “Who else but us would publish a book on the history of people with disabilities in northwest Ohio? We can publish books about a region that we know.”

Commercial presses — driven by the bottom line — are typically not eager to print the kinds of books printed by UT Press, where titles include such books as Glass Will: An Anthology of Toledo Writers, by Joel Lipman; The Essential Big Red: Selected Poems by Lynne Walker, and I’ll Take You There, a look at the history of the blues club Hines Farm, by Matthew Donahue.

Titles hot off the press include Can I Get A Witness, a collection of photographs by Toledoan John Gibbs Rock-wood, featuring a variety of rock and roll, blues, folk, and pop performers from the early 1970s through the 2000s, and American Originals: Northwest Ohio’s Polish Community at Home, Work, Worship, and Play, edited by Timothy Borden, with an opening chapter penned by U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur. Both were released earlier this year.

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“The audience isn’t big enough for a big publisher,” Floyd said.

“We’re able to print smaller runs, so it’s cheaper for us. Even if sales are small, to people here, it’s important that we know our history.”

With the success of the 2009 release of What A Time It Was: Interviews with Northwest Ohio Veterans of World War II, the printing operation was transformed into what is now the University of Toledo Press.

That book, by veteran Andrew Fisher, is a selection of 80 interviews from among the hundreds of interviews that are archived in the Ward M. Canaday Center of the University of Toledo’s Carlson Library.

A companion book, 30 Below on Christmas Eve: Interviews with Northwest Ohio Veterans of the Korean War, was released in 2012.

“That was the book that propelled what was a small press that focused on local ethnic communities into something that publishes a lot of different titles and on other topics,” Floyd said of What A Time It Was.

“We’ve spun off into a lot of other things, but always with a connection to northwest Ohio.”

To purchase books or for information about publishing, visit utoledopress.com.

Contact RoNeisha Mullen at: rmullen@theblade.com or 419-724-6133.

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