Promoting and Nurturing Interactions with Open Access Books: Strategies for Publishers and Authors (1.0). A COPIM WP6 Research and Scoping Report

Janneke Adema, Samuel Moore, Tobias Steiner

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This report explores how publishers and authors can promote, nurture, and facilitate interaction with openly available books. Open access (obviously) opens up scholarship, but it also offers scope to enhance interactions between books, scholars, publishers, resources, librarians, and of course readers. This might take the form of creating communities and conversations around books, of gathering comments and hyperlinks, or of enabling updating, remixing and reusing, translating, modifying, reviewing, versioning, and forking of existing books. Open access, in short can create additional value and new avenues and formats that go beyond openness, by changing how people interact with books. Research shows that making books available in open access enhances discovery and online consultation (Snijder, 2019), but the short outline above makes clear that there is still a lot to be done to stimulate, explore, and practice the full range of book interactions made possible by open access.

The first part of this report provides a literature overview that identifies the opportunities that digital technologies and enhanced interactions with open access books can provide for scholarship; it outlines some of the main types of interactions around scholarship—and around and as part of open access books more in particular—that scholars are involved in; and it showcases some of the experiments within humanities book publishing with reuse and remix; finally it presents some of the main (technological and socio-cultural) inhibitions that have prevented further uptake of these practices. The second part of this report more closely explores the technical dependencies that the introduced interactions and affordances rely upon. Doing so, it outlines and showcases various open source tools, software, technologies, platforms, infrastructures, guidelines and best practices, that lend themselves to being adopted by publishers and authors (or by publishers and authors working in collaboration with each other) to facilitate interaction around their book(s). The third part of this report then summarises the findings of the previous parts and provides recommendations, guidelines, and strategies (again, both socio-cultural and technological) for publishers and authors to further open up their books and collections to community interaction and reuse.

Who is this Report for?

The main communities we want to reach with this report are publishers and authors/scholars (or communities of scholars), to explore how they, by experimenting and often just making simple adjustments, can start to open up and stimulate interactions around their books. Where larger (commercial) publishers often have the resources to develop tools and workflows for interaction in-house (and often proprietary), scholar-led publishers, for example, although they have been at the vanguard of more experimental forms of publishing, have indicated that they often lack expertise and familiarity with more experimental forms of publishing and with the tools available to support them (Adema and Stone, 2017). We therefore focus in this report on open source tools and openly and freely available resources and guidelines that can help small-scale and not-for-profit book publishers that cannot afford to build their own custom platforms, to stimulate engagement around books. We also show various examples throughout this report of how publishers, publishing collectives and platforms, authors, and scholarly communities already are stimulating interaction around books in interesting ways and the tools and practices they have adopted to do so.

This report focuses on interactions with books and on books within the humanities and social sciences in particular. Many of the types of interaction and interactive practices we describe within this report (such as for example open peer review and data mining), are being used and adopted more commonly within the STEM fields (where their uptake is also more widely researched). The humanities (and to a lesser extent the social sciences) in general have lower adoption rates where it concerns these types of practices and also have field specific preferences (as well as prejudices) towards many of these practices, which will be taken into account and further discussed in this report.

Types of Interaction

As part of our research we have identified several types of scholarly interaction taking place around books. The first part of this report is structured around some of the more common kinds of interaction that open access books afford: annotations, open peer review, remix and reuse, social scholarship and networked books, and emergent practices (including versioning, forking, and human computer interactions). This report doesn’t aim to cover all forms of interaction around books but has chosen to focus on the kinds of interactions that publishers and scholars would be able to promote and recreate with relatively simple adaptations to their workflows, systems, practices, and licensing. Each of the above identified types of interaction around books will be discussed in the next section, including how we can stimulate them and what obstacles currently exist towards their more general implementation. Throughout the next part of this report we will also be providing examples from within humanities book publishing to illustrate the different kinds of interaction.

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The report has itself been published in an experimental way. Making use of the advanced versioning functionalities offered by PubPub, we will iteratively update this document over the remainder of the project, thus allowing us to incorporate user feedback and new technological developments.

Hence, we would be really grateful for constructive feedback from the communities out there who are already experimenting with new forms of interaction. Please don’t hesitate to leave comments either on the PubPub version (account and login required), or get in touch via email at

The report is published as a PDF here on Zenodo, while a more interactive book version that is available as a PubPub book.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherCOPIM Project
Number of pages71
Publication statusPublished - 19 Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

Open Access


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