The Stages of E-Textbooks Creation

This blog post was written by Jaimee Biggins, Managing Editor, UCL Press.

UCL Press chose Key Concepts in Public Archaeology as its second e-textbook with Jisc as part of the ‘Institution as e-textbook publisher project’. Initially UCL Press had planned for the book to go through the traditional production processes and simultaneous publication of print and online formats. However, during production this was re-assessed partly because of the delayed delivery of some of the chapters in the manuscript – unfortunately a common issue in multi-author edited volumes. As the General Editor had submitted the bulk of the chapters UCL Press chose to follow an online-first model and launch several chapters on the UCL Press digital platform. As Key Concepts in Public Archaeology is an edited collection, with each chapter covering a specific aspect of public archaeology, the chapters can be read quite independently and do not necessarily need to be presented in a linear format.

UCL Press is an open access publisher of scholarly monographs, textbooks and journals. Books are produced in all formats (open access PDF, hardback, paperback, epub, mobi as well as html). The html-based UCL Press digital platform offers an innovative way for UCL Press content to be read. It does this through three different formats – enhanced editions with audio/visual elements, monographs with scholarly functionalities such as the ability to note-take, highlight and share chapters and BOOCS (Books as Open Online Content), which are ‘living books’ with content being added to over time. Public archaeology is an emerging and rapidly growing field of study and therefore there is potential for more chapters to be commissioned in future – these can easily be added to the online version over time, rather than having to wait to produce a full new edition.

The development of the UCL Press platform can be seen in the context of the Academic Book of the Future project. This was a two year AHRC-funded research project (2014-16) run by a core project team from UCL and King’s College London, and led by Dr Samantha Rayner, the Principal Investigator (UCL), which looked at how scholarly work in the arts and humanities will be produced, read, and preserved in coming years and asked key questions such as ‘what is the nature of an academic book?’, as well as exploring new technologies for the book. The project investigated the academic book in its current and emerging contexts, from a range of perspectives (including academics, librarians, publishers and booksellers), and considered a variety of issues – from open access to the REF (Research Excellence Framework), to the future of academic bookselling and academic libraries, and more.

One of the project outcomes was the Academic Book of the Future BOOC, which features contributions connected to the project including blog posts, videos and articles. The discussion remains current and dynamic as articles can be added to the site over time, and the platform allows different ways to explore and share the ideas and discussions. UCL Press plans to expand the BOOC model in the future.

The full report on the Academic Book of the Future project was published in Spring 2017. Among the findings, it identified that enhanced, experimental book formats will continue to grow as a publishing output, alongside print, and by publishing Public Archaeology online, in a format that can be added to over time and that can include multimedia, UCL Press has offered a format that pushes the boundaries of the traditional book.

In terms of production, Key Concepts in Public Archaeology required a slightly different workflow from a standard monograph, and the sequence of production stages had to be re-ordered. As with all UCL Press books we followed an XML workflow and had it tagged by our typesetter with XML codes at the outset (before copyediting). An XML workflow enables content to be multi-purposed and used for a variety of formats such as epubs or html versions. After copyediting the files were passed to our typesetter who generated XML, which was then sent to our digital developer for ingestion onto the digital platform. Once ingested we spot checked the content on-screen to ensure no errors had crept in during ingestion. We then typeset at the very end of the process when all chapters had been delivered by the General Editor, to create a final PDF and book with prelims and index. This differs to the normal process where typesetting and page proofs stages of the book occur before publication, and the author and proofreader do a check of the complete PDF page proof which is paginated and a replica of the final printed book. In the workflow for this book it went from copyediting to XML, rather than copyediting and typesetting of a complete PDF and proofing.

Although the delays on this book were unfortunate it did enable UCL Press to develop a more flexible online-first format for edited collections. UCL Press will continue to develop this model in the future and may proactively offer this route to authors from the outset if a book is believed to have potential to grow over time.

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