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Programme’s must-read authors AIM to shake up scholarly publishing

Executive Publisher, Alex Wright, explains how the ‘fizzy ideas’ in the books published by Cambridge University Press’s Academic Impact programme aim to shake up scholarly conversation.

Book cover for Dante the Theologian by Denys Turner

Cambridge University Press offers something for everyone. We publish over 1,500 books a year, offering trade titles, traditional monographs, Elements, textbooks, reference and course books, alongside a weighty journals programme, a spirit of Open Research adventure, and a great deal more besides.

Our Academic Impact, or AIM programme, is one of the most exciting aspects of what we do, set up to offer the best of university press publishing, with books of such stature and significance that they make a lasting, even defining, impression on their fields.

Our hugely successful Academic Trade Programme excels at publishing books that make exciting scholarly ideas and arguments accessible to the general reader, and the same audience is attracted by many of our AIM titles. Their chief significance however, is their ability to shake up the world of scholarly publishing. They are big books, in every sense, replete with fizzy ideas. They don’t just reflect the scholarly conversation: they completely re-order and reenergise it.

Taking AIM at the big beasts

All this means attracting ‘big beasts’: writers who either already have a reputation, built up over many years of publishing, or up-and-coming authors whose profiles are in the ascendant – those who are going to be the new generation of formative movers, shakers and thinkers.

As a result, the AIM programme is a repository of brilliant ideas that represents the best of our intellectual crop and so we guard its integrity carefully. We try not to publish more than a handful of books a year in each subject area; and we have to feel certain that a price of £30 or $40 is genuinely going to attract readers beyond academic libraries. This means a peer group who are enthusiastically following an author’s work, and who feel their work is ‘must-read’. It may also mean a community of buyers outside an author’s own academic discipline. While serious pieces of learned writing, these are also in every sense ‘more’ than just monographs.

A growing list

We have now commissioned several hundred titles, right across the Humanities and Social Sciences. It would be impossible in a single article to do justice to all of them, but of the many recent AIM successes in Humanities I can think of some personal favourites, which might include:


Covers of some of the books in the Academic Impact programme


Our most recent success has been Francis Young’s Magic in Merlin's Realm, which published in March and which sold out its first print run in a matter of only a few weeks. It’s a great example of the expansive terrain we seek for these books. Not only are they read by scholars; they also, at the more approachable end, pick up non-specialist sales as well.

Large press benefits with the artisan touch

In their different ways, these are all titles that have made or will make a significant impression on scholarship. Despite their plurality and breadth, they are somehow all one family – all distinctively Cambridge University Press AIM.

And it is important to remember that AIM books are just one part of our large and diverse portfolio of academic publishing, which gives the aspiring author a degree of choice which very few others can really match. It allows us to combine the artisanal, or ‘handmade’, with operating at scale and taking advantage of all that modern publishing technology and innovation can offer: global reach, matchless digital sophistication and unparalleled marketing and sales expertise. It further demonstrates to the best authors that all are welcome inside our big tent.