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“The rumors of the death of print have been greatly exaggerated,” chuckled Dr. Jay Dew, director of Texas A&M University Press, surrounded by print volumes in his office. “At least, they have been when it comes to book publishing.” Reflecting on the press’s 50th anniversary, Dew remembers well how some heralded the arrival of e-books as the beginning of the end for ink and paper. Although such predictions made other university presses hesitant to adopt the digital format, Texas A&M University’s embraced e-books early, seeing them as another way to deliver knowledge and stories. “People still read print books along with e-books and audiobooks, sometimes buying different versions of the same title," Dew said.  “Our mission is to get our books in peoples’ hands however they need it.”

Those books have largely consisted of nonfiction works chronicling the state’s cultural and natural heritage, with a global reputation in military history, natural sciences, nautical archaeology and various other subjects. From archaeological expeditions in the Mexican jungle to stories of valor about Aggie Medal of Honor recipients, the press’s titles simultaneously deliver captivating narratives and serious works of scholarship. In a literary landscape that is as volatile as ever, with the “Big Five” publishing houses scrambling to find the next bestseller, university presses like Texas A&M’s take pride in publishing quality books about art, culture, science and history that commercial publishers may overlook.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that the internet, e-books and other technological advancements had radically democratized publishing to the point of removing the need for such a press. After all, it wasn’t long ago that certain stories and ideas wouldn’t see the light of day unless their author could convince a publisher they were worth printing. With the rise of self-publishing making it easier to independently distribute books physically and digitally, what role do academic institutions like Texas A&M have left to play?

“What we provide is trust,” Dew stated. “Every book we publish is peer reviewed by scholars and subject matter experts. If it passes our rigorous editorial process, we publish it with the Block T logo on the spine. We want that to be a mark of quality and pride.” Employing 19 staff members passionate about publishing quality scholarship, the press’s nonprofit operations are funded by sales revenue, university support and generous donors who believe in the power of good books. Beyond academic legitimacy, the press offers authors enhanced creative collaboration and handles marketing and distribution, which often prove costly and complicated for independent authors.

While many university presses trace their roots back more than a century, Texas A&M’s was founded in 1974 at the direction of then-president Jack K. Williams. For two decades prior, he and other administrators had watched The University of Texas at Austin build a bustling press from the ground up under the leadership of director Frank Wardlaw. Considering a university press to be a crown jewel for a major research institution, Williams and longtime university partner John H. Lindsey ’44 lured Wardlaw to Aggieland, tasking him with doing it all over again in College Station.

“If a book passes our rigorous editorial process, we publish it with the Block T logo on the spine. We want that to be a mark of quality and pride.”
- Dr. Jay Dew

Wardlaw enjoyed institutional support and the close partnership of philanthropic figures like Lindsey and Joe Hiram Moore ’38, but the sparse local creative scene forced him to call upon literary and artistic connections from Austin, as well as Texas A&M’s artist-in-residence, Edward “Buck” Schiwetz ’21, to develop the press’s first handful of titles and establish a foundation for the arts in Aggieland.

Today, the press publishes around 30 to 50 books annually, including retrospectives on artists like Schiwetz, who defined their respective regions and cultural movements. One such book, “Without Getting Killed or Caught: The Life and Music of Guy Clark,” tells the story of one of America’s most influential singer-songwriters through the meticulous research and personal experiences of its author, Tamara Saviano.

A Nashville music industry veteran who once served as Clark’s publicist, Saviano connected to the press through its partnership with Texas State University’s Center for Texas Music History. “I knew if I gave this book to a commercial press, it might’ve been out for a year before going out of print, never to be seen again,” she said. “With Texas A&M’s press, I knew it would be in good hands even after I’m gone.” She is writing a follow-up book for the press that will explore even more of her experiences with legendary musicians.

After its publication in 2016, Saviano’s biography of Guy Clark won the Belmont Book Award, a major prize presented annually by Belmont University for the best book about country music. It joins more than 500 other accolades bestowed on Texas A&M University Press books since its inception, including all major state book awards as well as numerous nationally prestigious awards. But beyond recognition, Dew and his team remain driven to publish and preserve information that matters.

“There is real value in a book,” he said. “Books, publishers, libraries—these are tangible storehouses of human knowledge.” Those details live on in the pages of the press’s many publications, found readily available wherever books are sold. Just look for the Block T on the spine.

Five Decades, Five Bestsellers

“A Weekend in September” by John Edward Weems

Considered one of the preeminent accounts of the catastrophic 1900 Galveston hurricane, “A Weekend in September” explores a defining, terrifying moment in Texas Gulf Coast history. Through interviews with survivors and meticulous examination of documents, Weems vividly portrays the storm’s devastation—wiping out two-thirds of Galveston’s buildings and claiming over 6,000 lives. With direct prose and relentless pacing, the book stands as a powerful historical narrative of the terror and violence unleashed by nature.

“A Flying Tiger’s Diary” by Charles R. Bond Jr. and Terry H. Anderson

Written by a retired major general and a Texas A&M history professor, “A Flying Tiger’s Diary” offers an intimate glimpse into the legendary exploits of the Flying Tigers during World War II. Based on Bond’s firsthand accounts written within 24 hours of combat with the Tigers, “Diary” captures the intense aerial battles with the Japanese over Burma and China, revealing the triumphs and tribulations faced by remarkable airborne warfighters whom Gen. Bruce K. Holloway once called "the most colorful group of warriors in modern times."

“Doug Welsh’s Texas Garden Almanac” by Douglas F. Welsh

An invaluable month-by-month guide for anyone looking to hone their green thumb, “Doug Welsh’s Texas Garden Almanac” offers practical insights and expert advice for gardeners and “yardeners” across Texas. The comprehensive almanac covers everything from flowers and garden design to trees, shrubs, lawns and vegetable gardening. Packed with colorful illustrations, charts and tips, Welsh’s almanac is a lighthearted but powerful tool for creating beautiful, healthy gardens and enjoying the process along the way.

“Unbranded” by Ben Masters

In this visually stunning book that would stand out on any coffee table, former student Ben Masters ’11 takes readers on an extraordinary 3,000-mile journey through the pristine backcountry of the American West. Adopting wild mustangs from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management as their trail horses, four friends ride across an almost contiguous stretch of unspoiled public lands, border to border, from Mexico to Canada. “Unbranded” captures not only physical trials overcome but also a special camaraderie forged as the group faces unpredictable weather, rugged terrain and unforgettable wildlife encounters.

“The Texas Triangle: An Emerging Power in the Global Economy” by Henry Cisneros, David Hendricks, J.H. Cullum Clark and William Fulton

Focused on its namesake Texas Triangle—comprising Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston-Galveston, and Austin-San Antonio—this in-depth exploration delves into the intricate connections between population growth, economic influence, education, business leadership and fiscal importance within three distinct metropolitan communities. Four experienced authors—a former mayor, journalist, economics professor and urban researcher—provide community leaders and policymakers with a nuanced understanding of a pivotal moment in America’s urban development, offering insights into the collaborative forces driving economic prosperity and community advancement across four of the nation’s 10 most populous cities.

Explore Texas A&M University Press titles at or through major digital and physical booksellers. To support the press’s operations and projects, contact Senior Planned Giving Officer Amy Bacon ’91 at the bottom of this page.

  • Amy Bacon '91

  • Senior Planned Giving Officer
  • Office of Planned Giving
  • Call: 979.845.5869

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