Behind the scenes: optimising workflows for OA books

Tom Mosterd

Thu 17 Nov 2022

Read this article at hypothè

In recent months, OAPEN and Bloomsbury Academic collaborated on optimising the workflow for getting open access books into the OAPEN Library. As publishers such as Bloomsbury Academic make a growing part of their book portfolio available open access, this calls for processes, workflows and ‘behind the scenes’ work evolve too to make these books more easily discoverable. We had a chat with Ros Pyne, Global Director, Research and Open Access to learn more about Bloomsbury & its OA book programme

Q: Bloomsbury has published over 300 open access books within various disciplines in the arts, humanities and social sciences. Having started publishing open access books in 2008, how are things different today compared to then, for you as a publisher?

We’ve grown a lot since our early days, expanding the range of arts, humanities, and social science subjects that we publish, and launching a range of leading digital resources such as Drama Online alongside our book publishing. 

One big change is that back in 2008 scholarly book publishing was largely a print concern. Over the last decade and a half – and especially in the last couple of years – we’ve seen a substantial increase in demand for digital. That shift affects the dynamics of open access, and for Bloomsbury meant a move away from our original freemium model, which was reliant on print sales. Overall, though, interest in ebooks is a positive development from an OA point of view, as the digital open access book is increasingly viewed on equal terms with the print edition. 

What hasn’t changed is our commitment to originality and excellence in the arts, humanities and social sciences, and our focus on communicating great ideas and scholarship to the world. 

Q: Why was it important for Bloomsbury to improve this particular workflow with the OAPEN Library for its OA books, and why now?

The OAPEN Library and the DOAB have long been the premier platforms for discovery of open access books. The quality-control aspect, in the requirement for books to be peer reviewed, is particularly important. We also value OAPEN’s community governance and long-term commitment to open access books.  

Up until now we’ve been uploading metadata to DOAB manually for each OA book we publish. That’s not particularly efficient, especially as our open access programme grows. Setting up a feed to OAPEN means we can populate both the OAPEN Library and our DOAB records automatically, which should make for a faster and more reliable process – better for us, for our authors, and for readers and libraries that use OAPEN’s services.  

We also had broader aims in this project. Until now, we haven’t been able to include open access metadata in our external datafeeds, such as ONIX, and it’s been a priority for us this year to change this. Having accurate OA metadata is really important: it supports discovery and visibility of OA titles, and makes it easier for third-party organisations to flag OA status and so ensure we’re being fully transparent about that. We have found it incredibly helpful to work with OAPEN to refine our OA metadata and ensure we’re adhering to best practices, as we know we can trust your expertise in these matters. As we now move on to work with other discovery services which may have less experience in OA books, we can pass that along and help to embed those practices in the scholarly supply chain. 

Q: We often hear from publishers that publishing open access books in parallel to non-open access books can be challenging. How do you handle these two publishing streams?

Our open access books are handled by exactly the same teams as our non-open access books, from editorial through to production, marketing, digital platform management, and print sales. That’s really important as it means that all our books receive the same care and attention from our expert staff, meet the same standards, and are promoted alongside each other. However, open access does affect almost every part of the book publishing workflow, and at each stage we have OA-specific requirements – this includes special open access terms in our agreements; adding Creative Commons information inside the book and on online product pages; flagging OA status in marketing materials and to third-parties; and of course distributing the titles to OA discovery services such as DOAB and the OAPEN Library.

Q: Finally, how do you foresee the role of the open access portion of your book portfolio to evolve in the coming years? 

Open access is very much a priority for us. We know that open access books are read and cited more and reach more diverse readerships. That’s good for the scholarship we publish. And indeed, the arts, humanities, and social science communities that we serve are increasingly knowledgeable about and interested in open access for books. We see open access as integral to the future of research publishing, including for books, and we remain committed to exploring new and more equitable approaches.