Cambridge University Press ends printing after 400 years

Cambridge University Press ends printing after 400 years

More than 400 years of printing under the Cambridge University Press name is to end, with the publisher set to sign a contract with MPG Books Group on 29th June that will see the company take over printing for CUP.

The majority of the 69 jobs at the CUP’s in-house print capability will move to an MPG facility at Bar Hill in Cambridgeshire, although up to 16 positions in pre-press and administration may be lost.

The decision has angered and saddened the printers’ father of chapel, Nigel Gawthrope. “What they should have done is put in investment three years ago. We’ve all got mixed emotions,” he said. “Most of the people who work in the printing division are passionate about the company they work for, and to think about all that history going is heartbreaking.”

But CUP spokesman Peter Davidson put the move in the context of the shifts taking place in publishing as digitisation takes hold. “In the past six months we have outsourced our UK warehousing to DHL and our North American warehousing to Ingram. In the past two years the number of physical books we shipped has declined by two million,” he said.

“Now, with printing it is more complicated. Five years ago we were printing in the UK for a world market and shipping tons of books around the world. But just as the technologies exist that enable us to transmit information around the globe instantly, so those same technologies enable us to print globally, digitally.”

Davidson added that the investment in the kind of equipment and technologies MPG already has would have been strategically wrong for CUP. “It would have cost millions—money that we want to invest in scholarly and academic publishing. Many publishers who started out as printers, such as Collins and OUP have now moved away.  Publishers no longer need to own printing houses, in the same way that Apple doesn’t need to make its computers.”

It is hard to estimate what the deal is worth to MPG, since digital continues to have a growing effect on academic and journal publishing, but CUP’s European printing contract was worth just under £10m last year. “We accept that this is the end of an era and that there is sadness,” said Davidson. “However, almost all the workforce have got a secure job to go to, as well as a new plant with millions of pounds of investment in the kind of equipment high-quality printers deserve.”