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.