NIU University Press has published scholarly books for past 40 years


Students typing up their works cited page for papers may come across a familiar name for a publisher of their research material: The Northern Illinois University Press.

A division of NIU, the press developed from the university’s history department and was established in the mid-1960s. Its founding year is debated to be between 1965 and 1967.

Today, the press has a publication rate of about 32 books per year, but is still considered small as far as university presses go. Over 400 different titles have come from the NIU Press, all non-fiction.

Director J. Alex Schwartz said it is not common for universities to have their own publishing arm.

“Most universities don’t have their own press and there’s only a little over a hundred nationwide that has them,” Schwartz said.

Instead of commercial or profit reasons, NIU Press publishes books based on scholarly quality.

“In fulfilling its broadly educational mission, the press publishes books for inquiring general

readers as well as for specialists,” according to the press’s Web site.

When authors look to publish through the NIU Press, they must first be approved by a board and a peer review process, in which two or more academics review the project and regard them by academic merit. The process can take eight to nine months before publication.

The press has a general focus on topics ranging from the humanities, arts and social sciences, but it has had a history of developing a reputation with specializing in Russian history and Slavic studies. This has led some authors abroad to publish with NIU.

“Only a small percentage of our books come from NIU professors,” Schwartz said. “Our authors come from all over the world.”

The press’ line of books has primarily been non-fiction, but it created a fiction line last fall called Switchgrass Books for which only novels about or set in the Midwest are published.

“To enhance the cultural landscape of the Midwest by offering a forum for publishing dynamic, original voices of literary fiction,” states the Web site’s mission statement. “With its roots in the rich soil of the Midwest, Switchgrass will be the premier publisher for authors and readers of novels grounded in the region.”

For prospective writers or novelists interested in Switchgrass Books, the website is: