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“Time flies when you’re having fun ...”

The Copim Open Book Futures team reflect on a successful first year and look ahead to Year 2 of the project where they will continue their work to generate new forms of support for open access book publishing.

Published onJul 02, 2024
“Time flies when you’re having fun ...”
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Open Book Futures: Year 1 Annual Report (May 2023-April 2024)
Open Book Futures: Year 1 Annual Report (May 2023-April 2024)

The Open Book Futures (OBF) project will initiate a step-change in the ambition, scope and impact of open access (OA) book publishing: significantly increasing and improving the quantity, discoverability and accessibility of academic content made available freely and easily to scholars and the wider public. The 3-year project (May 2023–May 2026) builds on the work of the COPIM research project (2019–2023). This report provides a comprehensive review of the first year of the OBF project (May 2023–April 2024). It includes  1. A summary of the project to date, in line with success criteria 2. A summary of how the project has delivered wider benefits beyond success criteria, or achieved outcomes not originally planned for3. An update on the sustainability of the project post-funding4. How are we disseminating learning to the wider HE sector and others who might benefit from our insights? 5. What networks and/or approaches are we currently utilising for dissemination? And are there further ways in which we plan to connect with others to share insights from our project? 6. A case study highlighting the impact of our project 7. Lessons learnt8. Risk register9. Success criteria 11. Materials and open access 12. Photographs   A shorter summary of the report's contents can be found on the project's PubPub site. The project team welcomes feedback and questions. Please do get in touch. 

It seems only yesterday that we were looking back on the achievements of the COPIM project (2019–2023) while also casting a look ahead to the next exciting project phase. But the Copim Open Book Futures (OBF) project has been running for over a year already! Funded by Arcadia and the Research England Development (RED) Fund, OBF is building upon the pioneering work of the original COPIM project. Reuniting many of the COPIM project partners, while also bringing in new partners from around the world, OBF aims to deepen COPIM’s long-term impact and to make sure a wider range of voices have the opportunity to shape the future of open access book publishing.

A full annual report on our activities in Year 1 is available to read via Zenodo, but we  wanted to use this post to provide a summary, and to look back at all that we have achieved in Year 1 of the project before looking forward to Year 2.

Key highlights 

Each work package has picked out a few highlights from the past year.

Open Book Collective

The Open Book Collective (OBC) enables libraries and other institutions to financially support open access initiatives via its Supporter Programmes. In Year 1, the OBC held its first Annual Assembly of Custodians, and in December 2023 it became a registered charity: two crucial milestones for enhancing and securing the OBC’s long-term impact, mission and sustainability. Moreover, proactive outreach work has allowed the OBC to exceed its targeted revenue growth in Year 1 by ca. 25%, and the platform has grown to include 3 additional new publishers and 61 supporting institutions from around the world! An outreach highlight in Year 1 was a 3-day workshop in Cape Town (‘Towards Sustainable Open Access Book Publishing in the African Context’), which was co-organised by the OBC. And finally, in April 2024, the OBC launched a call for applications to its Collective Development Fund Grant Programme. 

Opening the Future

Opening the Future (OtF) is a funding model for open access books, which was launched under the COPIM project and is currently adopted by two University Presses (with more to follow). Over the course of Year 1, OtF has been researching and reporting on the model’s future: scoping plans to embed OtF within third party processes and holding regular meetings and consultations with Jisc, Lyrasis and other key stakeholders. The appointment of Kira Hopkins as Scholarly Publishing Outreach Officer allowed the team to scale up outreach activity and thus enhance the model’s impact (see Year 1: Impact section for greater detail). Additional milestones have been reached with the two University Presses who have already implemented this model; one of them reached the milestone of publishing their 20th book open access via OtF funds. Furthermore, we are now in a position to assess the mid-term sustainability of this model as we have entered the first membership renewal phase; we are, therefore, among the first world-wide to be able to investigate this for collective book funding models. 

Open Metadata & Dissemination (Thoth Open Metadata)

Established in 2022 under the first project phase of COPIM, Thoth is an open metadata management and dissemination platform, and a non-profit Community Interest Company (CIC) registered in the UK. Following feedback collected from the group of early-adopter publishers, Thoth has significantly expanded the metadata services it offers small and medium sized open access publishers. This now includes the central metadata creation and management platform, automated DOI registration with Crossref, and dissemination to a variety of key platforms active in the larger book supply chain. All resulting metadata are being made available openly under a CC0 dedication in a variety of industry standards such as MARC21, ONIX, KBART, etc. and platform-specific flavours thereof. In parallel, the team has worked hard  to continue its implementation of open standards and protocols, and has also established links with a number of partnering organisations such as OAPEN, DOAB, OPERAS, PKP, OASPA, and Crossref. Working closely with the Archiving and Digital Preservation work package, the teams involved are also establishing the Thoth Open Archiving Network to provide small and scholar-led publishers with a means to archive their OA books in an easy way. Additional services now include website and catalogue hosting, as well as bespoke metadata creation and data quality checks and ingest into the Thoth database. Thanks to an active outreach campaign (more on that later!), Thoth has grown both in revenue and in its number of users - surpassing both Year 1 targets in this area. Importantly, Thoth has also focused on fostering bibliodiversity in open access book publishing, which is reflected in Thoth’s development roadmap to enable publishers to also record multilingual metadata within Thoth. The team now works with more than 25 presses, including numerous publishers working in non-anglophone contexts.   


The Accessibility Group will conduct research on accessibility requirements and explore how these can be met through publishing workflows. By developing new tools, shaping technical protocols and sharing best practice, this group will support open access publishers by helping them to meet the diverse needs of their readers. Recruitment delays in Year 1 have meant that work on this work package has been delayed; however a full-time lead on this work should be starting soon and we look forward to seeing what they achieve.

Experimental Publishing

The Experimental Publishing Group is researching ways to more closely align existing software, tools, technologies, work processes and infrastructures for experimental publishing with the workflows of open access book publishers. Demonstrating their commitment to scoping and supporting experimental publishing futures, the team held a matchmaking workshop to facilitate connections between academic researchers, publishers and platform/software providers, and then in April 2024 announced support and funding for three experimental book publishing pilots (the three successful applicants can be found here, here and here). These pilot projects, which will be openly documented, will foster sustainable communities of authors, publishers, developers, editors, reviewers, and open source technology providers that have an interest in engaging in more experimental forms of book publishing.

Archiving and Digital Preservation

The Archiving and Digital Preservation Group are ‘bridging the infrastructure gap’ in open access book publishing by developing new technical methods and workflows for effectively archiving complex digital research publications. Year 1 saw the creation and launch of a National Libraries Network. This global network has been established to discuss the requirements and challenges of archiving and preserving open access books. It currently has 6 members (Qatar National Library, Library of Congress, British Library, National Library of Scotland, National Library of the Netherlands and German National Library) with conversations ongoing to expand further. As had been noted above, the Archiving and Digital Preservation team is now also working closely with Thoth Open Metadata, and jointly co-leads the ongoing work to establish the Thoth Open Archiving Network, which we conceive as an open and transparent alternative to dark archives. 

Spreading the word

Photo by Julian Romao on Unsplash

A level of continuity in both personnel and working practices allowed the OBF project to launch quickly and effectively. Our outreach and engagement work has also benefited from OBF’s public status as a proud successor to the COPIM project. Under COPIM, the team established a strong reputation as knowledgeable and trust-worthy advocates for open, community-led open access book publishing. Year 1 of the OBF project saw members of the team continue to receive invitations to speak at both online and face-to-face events. Crucial to this successful and wide-ranging dissemination has been our ability to continue using the ‘COPIM’ moniker, which has become a recognised and trusted brand name in an increasingly busy open access publishing landscape. Not only do team members continue to be approached as potential co-organisers, conference exhibitors, panel participants, facilitators, and sources of expertise, we have expanded our social media presence and use of the open source publishing platform, PubPub, to create a large, rich and searchable treasure trove of advice-sharing, updates, knowledge and reflections.

Over the last year we have had some real dissemination highlights (full detail in project report). We have:

  • increased our social media presence and followers: X (formerly Twitter) (2000+ followers), Mastodon (410 followers), LinkedIn (190 followers). Many of the work packages also have their own social media accounts, e.g., OtF, OBC and Thoth

  • made 50+ contributions to events (presentations, posters, exhibition stands; and as organisers, panellists, moderators, etc.), including at events in Washington (CNI Conference), Cape Town (3-day workshop), OPERAS 2024 (Zadar, Croatia), Tromsø (Munin Conference), and The Hague (2-day workshop)

The diary of our upcoming and past events is open to all, and also includes reports on the workshops and events organised as part of the COPIM and OBF projects.

Photo by Glenn Carstens on Unsplash

Impact on the sector

Year 1 of the OBF project exemplifies the benefits in efficiency, outreach and team morale that are gained from working on a 3-year research project that follows directly on from a previous, successful project. We would argue that there are lessons to be learned here about effective allocation of project funding, and the potential advantages to be gained from supporting projects that explicitly expand upon an immediate predecessor.

The OBF team has influenced and benefitted the HE sector and other stakeholders by disseminating its learning at a pivotal moment for OA-publishing: offering much-needed insight and hands-on expertise to inform and guide attitudes and responses to a rapidly changing academic and regulatory landscape. For example, this year, our project community has intervened in the active debates enlivened by new policy announcements in the UK by offering advice on what a sustainable, community-led, equitable and bibliodiverse future for open access books might look like, how it might be supported by new open access policies and mandates, and how open access books can benefit academics and the wider public in important ways. An illustrative example of this is our community’s co-authored responses to the UKRI open access policy for long-form research outputs and the REF29 OA policy sector consultation.

We are being listened to, and we are having an impact across the sector, both in the UK and more widely. Members of the project team were cited in the recently released “Updated Report to the U.S. Congress on Financing Mechanisms for Open Access Publishing of Federally Funded Research”. Stephen Hill (Director of Research at Research England) cites Copim and the OBF community projects as an example of the power of Diamond OA publishing, as does Ross Mounce (Director of Open Access Programmes at Arcadia). The large open access models being launched by commercial companies also directly cite Copim’s work as an inspiration, for example, de Gruyter Brill’s new UPL Open collection.

Photo by Benjamin Zanatt on Unsplash

Next steps

So what’s next? We completed 21 out of 24 objectives for the year. Delays to recruitment meant we were not able to complete the other deliverables on time but are confident we will catch up quickly in Year 2!

The debate around open access books in the UK continues to be lively, and with projects such as PALOMERA focusing on book policies, we are seeing a similar trend of renewed interest in open access books on a larger scale. Corresponding questions around equitability, viability of funder mandates, support for open research infrastructure and the publishing ecosystem in general continue. Going into Year 2, we plan to be a voice asking questions about the equitability and community claims of some of these new initiatives, and we want to be a leader in putting forward advice and guidance to institutions seeking to evaluate and differentiate between the various open access initiatives vying for (financial) support.

We hope that the work done by everyone involved in Open Book Futures during its first year will bring us yet another step closer to fully realising an alternative publishing ecosystem that supports communities of scholars, small-to-medium-sized publishers, not-for-profit infrastructure providers and scholarly libraries, enabling community-led open access book publishing in all its plurality to play a significant role in the future of academic books.

Photo by Guille Alvarez on Unsplash

1 Banner image by Tom Hermans on Unsplash

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