Embedding Using Primary Sources in the Liverpool Curriculum

This blog post was written by Emma Thompson, Education Lead, University of Liverpool Library.

Using Primary Sources (UPS) was published 18 months ago, and we now have one full academic year of usage. Where did that time go?

During the 2017/18 academic year Using Primary Sources has been established as key reading here in Liverpool on seven modules in History. These range from the first year module History Matters, though the second year module The Historian’s craft, to the final year dissertation module. Fully embedding this new resource in the curriculum, and ensuring that access is there for all students has enabled lecturers to develop lesson plans around it. This is a resource that really helps teaching and learning in Liverpool, but because it is open access there are benefits for the wider academic community as well.

The eTextbook has allowed lecturers to use an interactive resource in a way that encourages students to think about research techniques, and the range of source materials that are available to them. Dr Jonathan Hogg, Senior Lecturer in History and editor of Using Primary Sources, has developed a Study and Research Guide for Using Primary Sources to aid Liverpool colleagues with the integration of the resource, this can also be used by other institutions with a creative commons licence.

‘The e-textbook format allows our students to access archival source materials online, and offers accessible advice on how to integrate source materials into written work. It has emerged as a cornerstone to our revamped curriculum, and the department plans to develop further lesson plans in the future.’

AS UPS is open access the benefits of this rich eTextbook are not just available to students in Liverpool. Statistics show 964 users of UPS of whom 263 have created accounts on the Biblioboard platform.

Analysis of the usage has shown that the majority of people who visit UPS are in the United Kingdom, many of whom will be Liverpool students and staff who we can see are referred from our VLE, reading lists system and Library catalogue. We were not surprised that peak usage was during October 2017, around the time when students’ modules are underway and they will be working on their first assignments of the semester.

There is interest outside the UK with visits from North America, mainland Europe, Australia and some have come to the eTextbook from Japan, Algeria, and Brazil. The only continent not yet reached is Antarctica (yet).

As well as plotting how to integrate UPS into Antarctica, during 2018/19 we will be ensuring that UPS will be introduced to more Liverpool students in History. There is also interest in other parts of the University of Liverpool where the success of this resource has been noted and plans are being developed to create similar eTextbooks.

Institution as e-textbook publisher toolkit launch event

Institution as e-textbook publisher toolkit launch event





The Jisc Institution as e-textbook publisher project was a four-year project investigating the viability of higher education institutions publishing their own e-textbooks. The overall objective of the programme, which started in 2014, was to assess whether the textbooks that have been created provide:

  • A more affordable higher education for students
  • Better value for money than commercial alternatives
  • An improved, more sustainable information environment for all

During the project, participating institutions created eight textbooks covering a range of subjects, applying business, licensing and distribution models and reporting back on the impact, value and viability of the models they choose.

The toolkit launch event the four project teams reflected back on the last four years of the project and presented the ‘Institution as e-textbook publisher toolkit’ for authors, librarians, learning technologists and senior university staff who may wish to consider publishing their own e-textbooks. Below are the links to the toolkit launch event presentations:

Launching the Institution as e-textbook publisher toolkit

Over the past 6-9 months, our project partners at Liverpool, Nottingham, UCL and UHI/Edinburgh Naper have been working hard to produce a first public draft of the Institution as e-textbook publisher toolkit.

We are very pleased to officially launch it today to coincide with our final project workshop in Birmingham. What you will see if you follow the links below is the first draft of the toolkit, over the course of the next few months we will add more content from the projects and source external content as appropriate.

The toolkit can be read as a whole, or the appropriate sections can be consulted as required. We have added links between the sections where appropriate, more internal navigation will follow. We have kept the wording in the sections to a minimum for ease of reading. However, each section also includes links out to more information produced by the teams as part of the project.

This version of the toolkit is a draft version, which will be subject to open peer review by the community over the course of the next 6 months. This means that we are very interested in your feedback and comments.

We will produce a final version, which will be available on the Jisc website in autumn 2018.

You can find the draft sections below:


2.Why publish textbooks?

3.Publishing process

4.Support for Staff


6.Marketing and distribution

7.Measures of success

8.Students as authors of e-textbooks


Author motivation workshop for academic institutions – June 2018

Jisc’s Institution as e-textbook publisher project, developed in direct response to the unsustainable models and high price of e-textbooks being made available to institutions, has been exploring alternative ways to create learning materials for students.

As the next stage in this work, we’ve been exploring why authors choose to publish textbooks and other learning resources, and how institutions can support and encourage them to do so.  We’re running focus groups in London and Manchester to share our findings and explore some of the issues with institutional staff. If you work in the library, publishing support, academic development, teaching and learning, learning technology or related areas, we would love to gain your perspective. This is a great opportunity to help shape the future of learning resources in UK HE.

Please use the following links to see full venue details and book your space on our focus groups:

Jisc will cover all reasonable travel costs for you to attend.

If you have any questions, please contact the project researcher, Ellen Collins, on ellen.collins@cantab.net

Author motivation workshop for authors – June 2018

Jisc’s Institution as e-textbook publisher project, developed in direct response to the unsustainable models and high price of e-textbooks being made available to institutions, has been exploring alternative ways to create learning materials for students.

As the next stage in this work, we are running a research project to understand why authors choose to publish textbooks and other learning resources.

We’re running focus groups in London and Manchester to understand author perspectives on these issues. This is a great opportunity to help shape the future of learning resources in UK HE.

Please use the following links to see full venue details and book your space on our focus groups:

If you have any questions, please contact the project researcher, Ellen Collins, on ellen.collins@cantab.net

Jisc will cover all reasonable travel costs for you to attend,

The eTIPS companion websites – supporting learning and teaching through institutionally published work

Written by Laurence Patterson.

The eTIPS project, sponsored by Jisc, is a collaboration between The University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI), and Edinburgh Napier University (ENU). eTIPS saw two eTextbooks authored, formatted, and completed by academics and others. The two eTIPS eTexts published offer universal interest for undergraduates and postgraduates, discussing student preparedness for research and project work.

One workstream of the project saw the production and publication of companion websites, which accompanied each eText. For the first book, this is available to view, here:


and for the second, here:


Whilst acting as a promotional tool – a purchase link across the Amazon network was given, as was a preamble of content – sites offered content beyond what could be found in their respective eTexts. In adding elements of multimedia, asynchronous collaboration, and activities, the project team wanted to explore the degree to which the companion websites might have engaged learning beyond the reach of eTexts alone. The relationship between the two elements was such that a reader could engage with the eText but may then jump online to discover a broader set of knowledge.

Time was taken on the appearance and functionality of sites – the intention, to have them look good, and to work well. The team considered that users should be encouraged to return numerous times – content would be added regularly, and collaboration would be encouraged in discussion forums – the tone and feel of content should be appropriate.

All content on the websites was provided free of charge and, although a link to the sites was given from within eTexts, the reader was not required to purchase a copy before accessing. A chapter-by-chapter summary was provided on each site, typically through a video introduction by the chapter author, and with further linked, relevant resources that would encourage the reader to discover themes in more detail. Each summary would also encourage registered readers to debate themes pertinent to chapter content in the sites’ discussion forum. It was intended that this ‘drip feed’ of both guest lecturer content, and digital artefacts, would enrich the learning experience, maintaining interest beyond the eText, and encouraging return traffic.

Additional materials, more broadly related to the project work of eTIPS, were also added to the websites. In some cases, where colleagues presented at conference, and published research separately, papers, presentation recordings, and published articles, were made available there.

Although the team feel that the addition of rich websites to work carried out across the project is of great value, the success of this approach has been difficult to evaluate. Whilst, through questionnaire response and in conversation, students and academics mention the sites, they mostly do so in passing, acknowledging their intention and their value, to broaden learning. But evidencing any true efficacy for those individuals has not been possible – the eTIPS project timescales too short to engage at a concentrated level with University programme leaders, module leaders, cohorts of students. Website analytics are, on their own, ineffective determiners of why return traffic might increase or decrease.

Creating and supporting online content required dedicated time and professional knowledge, and investment of both should be a consideration for teams considering a similar approach. Whilst the eTIPS project ended in July 2018, the intention of the project team is to maintain support for the companion websites over a further year, and to then review their effectiveness.

Scaling in-house e-textbooks publications at Liverpool: views from the Library and the University Press on the potential for new e-textbooks to be written and future plans

By Emma Thompson, Education Lead, University of Liverpool Library and Alison Welsby, Editorial Director, Liverpool University Press

LIBARARY VIEW: Liverpool’s involvement in the project has enabled us to publish two very different textbooks and has given us an insight into the hows and whys of this type of work. We have had the benefit of working with Liverpool University Press (LUP), so we had all the publishing functions ready to go (although textbooks were a departure for LUP as their focus has been on monographs and journals, so this was a new area of work for them).

As we reflect on the project, and consider what we have learned, we feel better placed to understand the considerations of an institution embarking on publishing e-textbooks, especially the considerations for moving this beyond time limited projects to become business as usual. As with any work we do, it is useful to go back to the fundamentals, so some questioning can help:

  1. Why? It’s a pretty simple question, but why would you do this? It involves time and money so there needs to be a key driver. What’s your purpose in doing this? The purpose at an institutional level needs to be much more than ‘it seems like a good thing to do’. What is the key driver for your institution? The drivers could include:
  • Existing titles do not meet pedagogic needs
    • Perhaps a new and innovative programme needs core materials and there is no good fit on the market
  • To push forward with innovation
    • Perhaps existing commercial textbooks in several subject areas do not offer the type of platform that students need and/or do not connect well with existing platforms that students use, especially the VLE. Do students need to be able to download a book to use on a mobile device in a clinical or workplace setting?
  • Value for money
    • Have expanding student numbers made licencing content from commercial publishers’ poor value for money?
  • Showcasing university expertise
    • Are the key experts in this subject area amongst your staff? Would you rather harness their expertise and support them internally to publish than to lose them to a commercial publisher where the resulting title may be viable for them, but not meet the needs of your institution’s programmes?
  • Attracting prospective students
    • Are there titles that meet the core values of your Institution and may be useful to sixth formers as well as first year students, particularly those undertaking the Extended Project Qualification?
  • Is a commitment to Open Education part of your institution’s strategy? Licenced resources can never be easily browsed by the curious individual, interested in signing up to a course or just curious.

PRESS VIEW:  Throughout the ‘Institution as E-Textbook Publisher Project’, we have been continually thinking ‘how can we take this forward with the knowledge gained from the project’? With Using Primary Sources, there is certainly room for further development as more chapters and archive material can be added, and possibly new subject areas. With Essentials of Financial Management, we can easily update the file and spreadsheets to respond to any changes in the module and subject, making it very much a ‘living textbook’. But what about scaling this up further to create more Open Access e-textbooks for students?

The ‘Institution as E-Textbook Publisher Project’ project has generated many conversations between the press and academics on campus on what we can do to help them create e-textbooks to support their teaching needs and provide valuable Open Access material to students, conversations that are still ongoing. Whilst there are no concrete plans currently on what will come next, from what we have learnt through the ‘Institution as E-Textbook Publisher Project’, we are well equipped to ask the right questions at the beginning of the project, to knowledgeably assess the variety of technology, software and platforms available regarding suitability and long term sustainability, and, importantly, to calculate the necessary investment required, both time and financial, to make a project a success.

The ‘Institution as E-Textbook Publisher Project’ project has shown us the possibilities that lie within Digital Humanities, especially as we reflect not only on what the academic book of the future will be, but also the textbook of the future. This projects marks the beginning of LUP’s Digital Humanities publishing programme, and we gratefully thank Jisc for putting us on this path.

Textbook Marketing

This blog post was written by Alison Fox, Marketing and Distribution Manager, UCL Press.

UCL Press published two open access e-textbooks with Jisc as part of the ‘Institution as e-textbook publisher project’. Textbook of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery was in June 2016, and Key Concepts in Public Archaeology in September 2017. To the end of March 2018, content from Textbook of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery had been downloaded 30,056 times in 159 countries and territories, and content from Key Concepts in Public Archaeology had been downloaded 6978 times in 109 countries and territories. Though both books have been popular in both the UK and US, both books have been widely downloaded across the world.

In a previous post, we discussed how the textbooks were disseminated; both textbooks are available in a variety of formats, each requiring a different strategy in order to reach the target readership. For this blog post, we’ll concentrate on our open access formats (PDF, HTML and app) and how we marketed the textbooks.

The titles that UCL Press published benefited from a dedicated Marketing and Distribution Manager who has extensive experience in marketing textbooks, and whose role at the Press is to manage the global marketing and dissemination of the c40 books that are produced annually.

Both textbooks are based on popular, well-respected Masters-level courses at UCL, and their publication reflects a UCL Press goal to provide open access textbooks in order to enhance student experience. Open access textbooks provide high-quality educational materials to students, as well as open important research to a wider audience for free. With this in mind, our marketing priorities differ from those of a commercial publisher; and reaching the UCL community is one of our measures of success.

In examining how the textbooks that we have produced have been marketed so far, it’s worth noting that textbooks follow a unique pattern — those who make the decision about which book is used (faculty members), aren’t the same as those who use the textbook (students) or those who make the book widely available (librarians or booksellers). This cycle still applies with open access, and, though there are fewer barriers to reach the reader directly, students still rely on lecturers to signpost relevant reading material, and on librarians to make sure that this content is easily available and discoverable via internal systems. In for the textbooks to be successful in their aims, we needed to reach all three groups.

Adoptions and Reading Lists

The aim of marketing textbooks is to gain adoptions of the books for course usage; in this case, as the books were designed to meet the requirements of UCL students, we needed to ensure that students on these courses could easily access details about the book. We did this by including them on UCL’s Reading List system, ensured that they were listed within UCL’s library catalogues and that sufficient print copies were available to the library, and that the relevant librarians were aware of the textbooks and could promote them to students.

Marketing by Authors/Editors

The authors and editors of both books have helped to promote the books extensively. Activities that they have undertaken have included emailing information about the books to their contacts, attending conferences with materials, and featuring books on their department communications channels and websites. The authors also emailed their students to let them know about the freely available textbook that has been designed to meet the course needs. The open access nature of the book has been helpful in this regard; the authors are more comfortable in helping to promote a free resource.

We have been delighted to receive feedback from the editors of Textbook of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, about the wider reputational benefit to the department and the authors themselves; production of the textbook, and the fact that it is open access, has helped to drive the visibility of the department. We are also working with the department to examine ways for details about the book to be sent to all new students, and for materials about the book to be taken to events that the department are exhibiting at.

Marketing to Students

In addition to including the books on reading lists, we produced a number of materials to support the adoptions. These have included flyers, posters and credit-card sized flyers to help stimulate usage, and were distributed by the course lecturers in lectures and via the library. Additional materials are in production for Key Concepts in Public Archaeology for the next intake of students for the linked module.

For both textbooks, we also posted announcements to relevant subject-specific student forums, announcing the arrival of a new open access textbook that may be of interest to readers.

Traditional Marketing Materials / Methods

In addition to print flyers, both textbooks were:

  • Included in our seasonal catalogues, which are distributed throughout the campus and beyond.
  • Listed on the UCL Press website
  • Included in our seasonal newsletters
  • Mailed to subject specialist email lists

Social Media

Each of the textbooks was promoted widely on Twitter by the Press, the authors/editors, and the relevant UCL department. Engagement rates were high, with tweets and retweets by both individuals and institutions across the globe.


Although reviews do not traditionally play a large part in marketing textbooks, we were delighted when British Archaeology magazine reviewed Key Concepts in Public Archaeology, stating:

There is a refreshing honesty about the book’s approach – it even recognises that most readers will neglect to read the whole thing, but instead will dip in as and when interest or need arise. Littered throughout with concise and well-chosen case studies, Key Concepts in Public Archaeology could become essential reading for undergraduates and is a welcome reminder of where archaeology sits in UK society today.’

Metadata and Discoverability
Metadata was provided to organisations within UCL (e.g. UCL Library) and externally (the platforms who distribute our content, print distributors, aggregators etc). More on this is available in our earlier post about Dissemination, distribution and discovery of e-textbooks.

Dissemination and wider uptake of Using Primary Sources

This blog post was written by Alison Welsby, Editorial Director at Liverpool University Press.

As discussed in previous blog posts, Using Primary Sources is an Open Access teaching and study resource that combines rare archival source material with high quality peer-reviewed chapters by leading academics. One of the main reasons to publish the e-textbook was to support history undergraduates and postgraduates at the University of Liverpool and to make accessible the rich archive in Special Collections at the University of Liverpool Library. However, as the e-textbook is Open Access, it undoubtedly has appeal outside of Liverpool.

Unlike other Open Access publications by Liverpool University Press, which can be placed on multiple Open Access platforms to ensure maximum discoverability, this e-textbook can only be accessed via BiblioBoard due to the technological features of the e-textbook. This does make dissemination of Using Primary Sources limited and places considerable importance on the marketing activities of Liverpool University Press to continually attract new users to the site.

Following extensive marketing, in particular social media marketing, the uptake of Using Primary Sources has been encouraging, with over 1500 users since launch in January 2017. To date, it has been accessed in 30 countries, from Algeria to Vietnam, and whilst the largest user base is the United Kingdom, the spread of users across the world shows considerable external engagement. It is also interesting to note that when users access the e-textbook, they spend on average six minutes reading and downloading material, rising to eleven minutes during the key teaching months of October and November in Semester 1. The most popular items in Using Primary Sources remain the academic chapters, which suggests that users are using the e-textbook as a study/teaching tool to learn about how primary sources can be used in historical research.

Considerable work has been done, and continues to be done, to implement Using Primary Sources on the reading lists of modules at other HE institutions. We ensured all the non-University of Liverpool contributors had the resource listed on their undergraduate and postgraduate modules (at the University of Georgia, University of Bristol, Durham University, University of Manchester and Keele University, who have it adopted on two undergraduate history modules as well as a postgraduate training module). We have also announced the e-textbooks to the academic community through various list-serves, distributed flyers and given demonstrations of the e-textbook on an iPad at our stand during academic conferences. We have also done considerable social media marketing. Whilst we are unable to contact academics directly about the e-textbook due to GDPR, we have contacted members of our mailing list who have agreed to be contacted about new history titles and products. It was also one of the main revolving images/links on our website’s homepage for over a year, so anyone coming to our website would have seen details about the e-textbook.

Our future plans for promoting Using Primary Sources is to reach out to sixth form colleges as we believe it has great potential to help students on history A-level courses. The University of Liverpool Library plan to use the resource as part of their school and college outreach programme, to showcase the quality of research and teaching at the University of Liverpool as well as the rich resources available in the library’s Special Collections and Archive.

New e-textbook released: Essentials of Financial Management

The e-textbook Essentials of Financial Management has just been released!

Essentials of Financial Management








Essentials of Financial Management is an Open Access e-textbook suitable for students with limited knowledge of finance and financial markets. It answers the main questions of a corporate entity, such as how businesses finance their activities, how they select projects to invest in, the distribution of net cash flow and, of increasing importance, how businesses manage price risk relating to cost of goods sold or a decline in revenue. In providing invaluable guidance to finance, management and business students, Essentials of Financial Management employs two main philosophies: that finance is a real-life subject and that finance is a numerical subject, which is why this brilliant e-textbook contains real world examples as well as numerous Excel spreadsheet solutions for students to download and use.