The University of Michigan Press has faced intense criticism in the last two months for distributing a book — on behalf of a British publisher whose sales the Michigan press handles in the United States — that is highly critical of Israel. And that controversy led to a review of the relationship with the British publisher. But on Wednesday, Michigan announced that it was keeping its ties to Pluto Press and would continue to distribute its books. The case has been closely watched by academic publishers and others concerned with academic freedom, especially on the sensitive topic of criticism of Israel.
The controversy focused attention on a role played by many university presses in the United States as the American distributors for small European publishers that don't have worldwide sales networks. Similarly, many American presses work with foreign publishers to act as their distributors abroad. Under these deals, the distributing presses don't review (or endorse) the works that have been published by another press. And that was a key factor in the way Michigan described its decision to maintain ties to Pluto — that the relationship was one of commerce, not scholarship.
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