Many publishers have to engage with how best to support collaborative learning in an online environment. Furthermore, the wisdom of groups has implications and potential benefits for many other parts of the publishing process. Of course, it will have workflow, process and costs implications as well.
Collaborative authoring is certainly a suggestive possibility. The Open Text Book project has evolved from a similar space to the open access movement. Described as a “registry of textbooks (and related materials) which are open — that is free for anyone to use, reuse and redistribute,” it begins to open the idea, even for commercial publishers, that texts could be created and then offered to the community of users (purchasers) in a malleable form, so that they can be more comprehensively re-crafted for local course use, as well as providing a means of feeding back other learning materials to the wider learning community built around the “book”.
This creative process has analogues with the blog-based peer review described by the Institute for the Future of the Book.1 It forms the basis of the editorial work going on to finesse the book Expressive Processing due to be published by MIT Press later this year.
The community is much wider than authorial, of course. Blackwell have developed the user community to inform and shape their innovative online-only journals, the Compass suite. Over a few years hundreds of users (students, academics, librarians) signed up to be part of the user crew, and have provided invaluable comments to the publishers to make it a better and more useful resource. Not only has this given cheaper, more responsive feedback than, say, focus groups, it has also fed the creativity driving the journals themselves, with accompanying blogs, podcasts and video peer-reviewed articles. However, these innovations have all raised important issues for Blackwell editorial and marketing as these new methods, features and technologies have had to be fitted into an existing business model, often changing and challenging it in the process.
The way publishers use social networking and community tools is important. Twitter is a case in point. Users don’t want to be marketed at all the time, even in 140 characters; the medium needs to be respected. But, as it is used and played with, it can build the community and loyalty that all businesses need, as a couple of articles in the current Publishing Trends highlight.2 Finally, it’s worth reminding ourselves of last year’s item: Why Publishers Should Blog.3 We all need to join the conversation.
- Vershbow, Ben. “expressive processing: an experiment in blog-based peer review.” if:book blog. Institute for the Future of the Book. 22 January 2008.
- “Twitter Isn’t Stupid.” March 2009. Publishing Trends.
http://www.publishingtrends.com/copy/09/0903/0903Twitter.html and McDougall, Jesse. “@ChelseaGreen Has 2,350 Followers. Here’s Why.” March 2009. Publishing Trends. http://www.publishingtrends.com/copy/09/0903/0903ChelseaGreen.html
- Krozser, Kassia. “Why Publishers Should Blog.” 23 June 2008. Booksquare blog. http://booksquare.com/why-publishers-should-blog/