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Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Annual of Urdu Studies Could Use Some Help

Q. You are the editor of a very impressive journal, The Annual of Urdu Studies. How did you get involved in this work? Do you have a large readership for this publication?

A. C.M. Naim of the Chicago University started it in 1980. Over the next 10 years he produced 7 issues and then gave up. I waited 3 years for someone else to take it over. When no one did, I jumped in. We needed a journal of this sort, the only one of its kind anywhere in the world. I could have started a new one, but it made more sense to revive what had once existed. Our basic problem is funding. We were lucky to get some support from the South Asia Center in the initial period and later from the University. When the University’s fiscal problems forced it to withdraw its support, the American Institute of Pakistan Studies (AIPS) luckily rescued us. Now it too has had to withdraw its full support. After June 2010 we are on our own, which means that we cease publication.

Our immediate problem is to raise some $7000 to pay the three-month half-time salary of the assistant editor so we can get the next issue, our 25th, out around September 2010. After that I don’t know. So far the Urdu community in the U.S. has helped us very little. Maybe they don’t know we exist. Perhaps you could put a notice in your online publication to let them know that we desperately need money, that keeping alive the only journal that deals with Urdu humanities is an imperative and the common responsibility of those in the Urdu community who are well placed in life to spare a little. Beyond 2010, we need close to $23,000 a year to retain a half-time assistant editor. The rest of the expenses we can cover from the small grant of $4000 the AIPS has offered to give us, and from the sales of the journal, and $1000 which I’m willing to contribute from my own pocket.

Do we have a large readership? I should think so, but not a large number of paid subscribers. Very few individuals and institutions buy it. Part of the reason for this deplorable condition is that in 2001 I put the journal online for free. Several thousand people a month use it there. So they don’t feel the need to buy it, or perhaps in many parts of the world they don’t have the resources to buy it even if they might like to. Shamefully, some university libraries in the U.S. and Europe have now also canceled their subscriptions because it is available online for free. Do they not realize this will snuff out the journal’s life? I had originally put it online for the sake of our South Asian readers who cannot afford to buy it.

If we cease publishing the print edition, the web edition will also cease to exist. Our editorial expenses are the same, whether it is print or web or both.

Coming up with $23,000 a year is a big hurdle for any one individual, but if you think of all those hundreds of prosperous doctors and businessmen in our community it isn’t an astronomical sum. If each gave only a small portion of it, we could easily reach our goal. So please do anything you can on behalf of the Annual.

Muhammad Umar Memon


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