Last week Lara Speicher (Publishing Manager, UCL Press) and I presented a session at the British Library on UCL Press and its new online BOOC platform as part of the second Academic Book Week (23-28 January 2017). Our presentation consisted of an overview of UCL Press followed by an introduction to our new online publication platform, BOOC (to be launched in February 2017). BOOC stands for Books as Open Online Content, and the format consists of a living book that is hosted on a browser-based platform. Material includes traditional content such as reports and presentations alongside non-traditional genres such as videos, presentations, blogs and Storifys. The first project to be published on BOOC is content from the Academic Book of the Future research project, (a project funded by the AHRC and British Library and run by academics at UCL and King’s College London to investigate the future of the academic book) and the pieces included are peer reviewed contributions from industry professionals and academics involved in the project. Content can be added to the platform over time rather than in one go allowing for an ongoing, dynamic evolution.
The audience at our talk was made up of librarians, academics, booksellers and other people invested in the academic book. There was genuine interest in the UCL Press model and we received some questions about funding and how academics had reacted to us within the institution. It was great to show the impact UCL Press has achieved in terms of download figures and number of countries reached since launching in June 2015. There was also real engagement from the audience about BOOC. Questions that came up included: how does copyright deposit work with something like BOOC? How are BOOC articles cited? What license does BOOC use? Does BOOC have an ISBN? Is BOOC actually a book or is it just a collection of articles? The latter question feeds directly into the debates that were core to the Academic Book of the Future project – these questions still need to be answered. How do we define an academic book? Is a book a stable thing? What about new editions? Editors of BOOC, Dr Samantha Rayner and Rebecca Lyons were on hand to talk about this. They also discussed the process of curating the material for BOOC and their role as a quality checkpoint along the way. We also gave a demo of BOOC and got very useful feedback from the audience. Most people seemed to admire the clean, simple layout of the site. We had some questions about the searchability functions of BOOC and whether content tagging could be used so that users could click on a keyword and be taken to content on that subject. Others said a bookmarking tool would be useful. We will feedback on this to our digital developer. The beauty of BOOC is that improvements can be made over time. We were pleased with the interesting discussion our talk sparked and look forward to following the continued debates about the future of the academic book!