COPIM Experimental Publishing Workshop, July 01, 2020


Mapping, Connecting, Developing Future Book Imaginaries

Participating stakeholders:

external: Scalar, UMP/Manifold, thresholds, Hybrid Publishing Group, Vega, Meson Press, Goldsmiths Press, PubPub, UCL Press, University of Westminster Press, Coko Foundation

internal: Mattering Press, Open Humanities Press, Open Book Publishers, punctum books, Coventry University

➡️🔍🖺 Documentation available here:


Open access grants direct read access to books, but it also enables more direct interactions with their contents post-publication. This includes:

  • Interactions with the content itself in the form of text and data-mining and the re-purposing and remixing of online digital content and collections in different educational and research settings;
  • Conversations around digital content via annotations and comments in the margins;
  • The interactive connections that digital content affords via hyperlinks, references and connected data-sets.
  • Linking to relevant other books across publishers websites

In addition to this, the digital environment increasingly allows research to develop processually and collaboratively making iteratively published versions and other updates part of the process of doing research.

Open access initiatives have also actively promoted experiments with new forms of publishing or what Tara McPherson has called ‘emergent genres’ for multimodal scholarship (McPherson 2010). COPIM’s members have been at the foreground here, stimulating further re-use of and engagement with their publications via experiments with multimodal and enhanced scholarly publications, wiki-books, and interactive scholarship. Yet there are opportunities to also further stimulate engagement around more traditional forms of publishing, including PDF and HTML formats, as well as with COPIM’s future collection of open access books as a whole, which would allow further opportunities for text and data mining and other interactive features.

Within this realm of experimental publishing, emergent genres, and reuse, several technological innovations and open source platforms have been and are being developed focused on books and experimental long-form publications, see for example the development of the Mellon-funded Scalar, Manifold platform, and Vega Publishing in the US.

Certain scholarly communities and fields within the Arts Humanities and Social Sciences (AHSS) are already accustomed to interacting more deeply with open and digital publications, where among other groups this type of engagement is less widely established. There are clear opportunities here to explore how the new opportunities that are being opened up for researchers in the AHSS as a result of new technological innovations and platforms, will allow them to engage more deeply and directly with scholarly research and publications. These forms of reuse and engagement have also predominantly been experimented with and established around open access articles; open access books are lagging behind in this sense, due to both technical, economical (i.e. IP and copyright) and cultural barriers.

Yet, even though technologically opportunities to stimulate experimentation and wider engagement with open access books are on the rise, the actual experimentation with formats and the interaction with open publications is still quite limited. There are various opportunities here for (consortia of) open access presses to explore how they can encourage this further by making both (scholar-led) publishers and authors aware of these kinds of interactive open source platforms and tools, whilst experimenting with and promoting the new forms of engagement they enable.

This is an opportune moment to explore what new forms of reading and engagement with books have emerged under the influence of open access and digitisation. How does this engagement differ with different types of publications, from more standard PDF or HTML-based books to multi-author wiki book environments, which would encourage and ask a different kind of interaction?

Guiding question

As part of this online half-day stakeholder workshop we want to bring together some of the most cutting-edge open source software and platform providers working on reimagining the academic book, with a selection of scholar-led and new university presses (see a full list of invitees underneath), to collaboratively explore: how can we better enable the production and publication of experimental books; and what is already out there to support this?

Workshop Aims

  • Knowledge and requirements sharing between presses and open source technology providers
  • Mapping existing experimental book projects and currently available technologies and software around experimental publishing
  • Develop strategies to promote more experimental forms of publishing within AHSS
  • Details on the main inhibitions related to the uptake of experimental academic publishing
  • Setting up a community of practice around experimental academic publishing to bring open source technologists, platforms, and publishers together
  • Set up recommendations for publishers and authors interested in experimental publishing
  • Develop an on online how-to-guide for publishers and authors focused on opportunities for experimental publishing.

Heder image by Da Nina on Unsplash.