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Published January 29, 2021 | Version 1.1
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Books Contain Multitudes: Exploring Experimental Publishing

  • 1. Centre for Postdigital Cultures, Coventry University


A COPIM WP6 Research and Scoping Report

Books contain multitudes: Exploring Experimental Publishing is a three-part research and scoping report created to support the Experimental Publishing and Reuse Work Package (WP 6) of the COPIM project. It also serves as a resource for the scholarly community, especially for authors and publishers interested in pursuing more experimental forms of book publishing.

COPIM (Community-led Open Publication Infrastructures for Monographs) is a 3-year project led by Coventry University as part of an international partnership of researchers, universities, librarians, open access (OA) book publishers and infrastructure providers and is funded by The Research England Development Fund and Arcadia—a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin. COPIM is building community-owned, open systems and infrastructures to enable OA book publishing to flourish, delivering major improvements in the infrastructures used by OA book publishers and those publishers making a transition to OA. The project addresses the key technological, structural, and organisational hurdles—around funding, production, dissemination, discovery, reuse, and archiving—that are standing in the way of the wider adoption and impact of OA books. COPIM will realign OA book publishing away from competing commercial service providers to a more horizontal and cooperative knowledge-sharing approach.

As part of seven connected Work Packages, COPIM will work on 1) integrated capacity-building amongst presses; 2) access to and development of consortial, institutional, and other funding channels; 3) development and piloting of appropriate business models; 4) cost reductions achieved by economies of scale; 5) mutually supportive governance models; 6) integration into library, repository, and digital learning environments; 7) the re-use of and experimentation with OA books; 8) the effective and robust archiving of OA content; and 9) knowledge transfer to stakeholders through various pilots.

The Experimental Publishing and Reuse Work Package looks at ways to more closely align existing software, tools and technologies, workflows and infrastructures for experimental publishing with the workflows of OA book publishers. To do so, it will produce a set of pilot cases of experimental books, which will be developed with the aid of these new tools and workflows and integrated into COPIM’s infrastructure. As part of these pilot cases, relationships will be established with open source publishing platforms, software providers, and projects focused on experimental long-form publications and outreach activities will be conducted with OA book publishers and authors to further promote experimental publishing opportunities. This Work Package will also explore how non-experimental OA books are (re)used by the scholarly community. As such, it will examine those technologies and cultural strategies that are most effective in promoting OA book content interaction and reuse. This includes building communities around content and collections via annotations, comments, and post-publication review (e.g., via the social annotation platform to enable more collaborative forms of knowledge production. To achieve this, this work package will map both existing technological solutions as well as cultural barriers and best practices with respect to reuse.

This Work Package will also produce an online resource to promote and support the publication of experimental books. This report has been produced to support both the development of this online resource and the pilot cases we are developing together with partner presses (including Open Humanities Press and Mattering Press). In parts one and two of this report, we situate experimental books in the context of academic research and map current experiments in book publishing in order to create a typology accompanied by a selection of examples of experimental book publishing projects. In part three of this report we then review existing resources on tools, platforms, and software used in the production of experimental books, and we sketch a roadmap and methodology towards the creation of the online resource mentioned previously. To support the pilot cases we have made a start with exploring two key practices within experimental publishing and the creation of experimental books that feature within this online resource: collaborative writing and annotation. As such we outline tools, platforms, software, and workflows that support and enable these practices next to describing the desired aspects we argue this technical infrastructure should cover.

Our thanks go out to our COPIM colleagues for feedback on earlier drafts of this report (with special thanks to Gary Hall, Julien McHardy, Samuel Moore, and Agata Morka) as well as to the participants of COPIM’s Experimental Publishing Workshop, who read and engaged with the first part of this report (Mapping and Situating Experimental Books). Our appreciation also goes out to the Next Generation Library Publishing Project for sharing an early catalogue-in-progress version of SComCat with us, and to members of the Radical Open Access Collective for suggesting examples for the Typology of Experimental Books (part 2 of this report) — especially to Nicolás Arata, Dominique Babini, Maria Fernanda Pampin, Sebastian Nordhoff, Abel Packer, and Armanda Ramalho.

The title of this report, ‘Books Contain Multitudes,’ is based on a Twitter thread and blogpost by Julien McHardy for the workshop Verlage Selber Machen organised by the publishing initiative


Note: The Living Document version of this report will be evolving further along with the progress made in the Work Package, with iterative updates subsequently published on PubPub:


Community-led Open Publishing Infrastructures for Monographs (COPIM) is supported by the Research England Development (RED) Fund, and Arcadia—a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin.


01 Books Contain Multitudes Exploring Experimental Publishing COPIM WP 6 Report.pdf

Additional details

Related works

Is continued by
Book chapter: 10.21428/785a6451.0ed93b68 (DOI)
Book chapter: 10.21428/785a6451.cd58a48e (DOI)
Book chapter: 10.21428/785a6451.174760b2 (DOI)