CUP is one of the two privileged presses (the other being Oxford University Press). It published its first book in 1584, and has published at least one every year since then, making it the oldest publishing and printing house in the world. It is both an academic and educational publishing house, a printing factory, and the printer for official documents for the University of Cambridge. Authors published by Cambridge have included John Milton, William Harvey, Isaac Newton and Stephen Hawking.
The Press is now a global organisation with a regional structure operating in the Americas, in UK/Europe/Middle-East/Africa, and in Asia-Pacific. Headquartered in Cambridge UK, the company has warehousing centres in Cambridge, New York, Melbourne, Madrid, Cape Town, São Paulo and Singapore, with offices and agents in many other countries. Its publishing output includes major ELT courses; tertiary textbooks and monographs; scientific and medical reference; professional lists in law, management and engineering; educational coursebooks; and e-learning materials for schools via the Cambridge-Hitachi joint venture. Its publications are aimed at markets worldwide, at all levels from primary school to postgraduate and professional. The Press also publishes Bibles, prayer books, and some 230 academic journals. It has 25,000 authors in 116 countries and issues between 1,500 and 2,000 new titles a year.
CUP has a division called 'Canto' that offers economical reprints of their more popular books in a (often smaller) paperback form. They are direct reprints but might lack inessential figures and illustrations. The editions state, "Canto is a paperback imprint which offers a broad range of titles, both classic and more recent, representing some of the best and most enjoyable of Cambridge publishing."
In 2007, controversy arose over CUP's decision to destroy all remaining copies of its 2006 book, Alms for Jihad: Charity and Terrorism in the Islamic World, by Burr and Collins, as part of the settlement of a lawsuit brought by Saudi billionaire Khalid bin Mahfouz. Within hours, Alms for Jihad became one of the 100 most sought after titles on Amazon.Com and eBay in the United States. CUP sent a letter to libraries asking them to remove copies from circulation. CUP subsequently sent out copies of an "errata" sheet. The American Library Association issued a recommendation to libraries still holding Alms for Jihad: "Given the intense interest in the book, and the desire of readers to learn about the controversy first hand, we recommend that U.S. libraries keep the book available for their users."
The decision did not have the support of the book's authors and was criticized by some who claimed it was incompatible with freedom of speech and with freedom of the press and that it indicated that English libel laws were excessively strict. In a New York Times Book Review (7 October 2007), United States Congressman Frank R. Wolf described Cambridge's settlement as "basically a book burning.