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Open Call for Experimental Publishing Pilots: Background Information to Support your Application

Published onOct 19, 2023
Open Call for Experimental Publishing Pilots: Background Information to Support your Application

We recently released our Open Call for Experimental Publishing Pilots. Based on some of the initial questions we have received from individuals and project teams currently preparing an application, we have drafted the underneath blog post with some more background information on the call. We also have added some lines about our understanding of and approach to experimental book publishing. We hope this will help and support you in preparing your application. If you have any additional questions please don’t hesitate to get in touch with Janneke Adema at [email protected].

What do we mean with experimental book publishing?

In our call we have defined experimental publishing as follows:

Experimental book publishing can include experiments with the form and format of the scholarly book; with the various (multi)media through which books can be performed; and with the ways in which scholarship can be produced, disseminated, and consumed, as well as reviewed, reused, and interacted with. It can also include experiments that reimagine the relationalities that constitute academic writing, research, and publishing, and that speculate on what the future of the book and the humanities might look like beyond the printed codex-format as the standard publication choice (Adema et al., 2022).

For more information about experimental book publishing, we particularly recommend having a look at the first part of our Books Contain Multitudes report, which situates and provides an overview of current experiments in academic book publishing. For further inspiration we would also like to draw your attention to the documentation of the three experimental book pilot projects we have previously conducted for the COPIM project and to the examples, tools, and practices that are collected in the Experimental Publishing Compendium, which is currently available in a beta version.

What kind of project teams are we looking for?

For our open call we are happy to invite proposals from either individual authors (or groups of authors), individual software and tool providers, or individual presses, as well as from teams of applicants that bring together these individual partners (in addition to potential other team members such as designers, librarians, developers, etc). If you are applying as an individual we will try and connect you to other partners (amongst others via a mandatory matchmaking workshop (you can find more info about this workshop underneath) to bring a full team together for your application. At the final submission of your application on 1st February 2024 we would expect teams to consist at a minimum of an author (or group of authors), an academic press, and a tool or software provider. Please note that we do have an Open Source Software Developer in our experimental publishing group who will be available to assist with the pilots but their main focus will be on helping integrate or adapt any existing open source tools and software to a particular publisher’s technical workflow.

Through the pilot projects we want to 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 and with each other. We aim to explore how such an engagement could be facilitated best, and to experiment with horizontal, equal, and diverse academic editing and publishing timelines and workflows that could support this engagement. In this context, we also want to foster and enhance the diversity of relations at work in publishing and scholarly communication and we aim to actively engage with the potentials and difficulties emerging from collaboration across disciplines, cultures, and languages.

What can the funding be used for?

The ultimate aim of these pilot projects is to promote the publication of experimental books. Our focus is in specific on the publishing process itself and on adapting the existing workflows and processes of academic publishers to better accommodate the multiple forms and formats academic long-form research can take. As such we expect the majority of the funds in your proposed projects to go towards these aspects, e.g. towards socio-technical adaptations of publishing and editorial workflows, covering (some of the) time spent by publishers and editors in adapting and/or devising their workflows, as well as, potentially, to tools and technology providers to adapt their software/platforms to better accommodate a specific project or publisher’s publishing workflow. As such we won’t generally be able to fund time spent by scholars on writing books. There may be exceptions to this, for example where the writing of the proposed book is an essential part of the experimental publishing aspect you want to explore in your application and directly impacts the publishing workflow. However, we would need a clear justification for this in your application if this is the case. In addition to this, given the time we have available to run these pilot projects (see next question) we would ideally expect books to have already been written or to be nearing completion.

Do we accept book projects that have already started?

 Given the short project time frame and that our primary mandate is to develop publishing practices and infrastructures for experimental books, we are happy to accept and even encourage proposals for book projects that are already underway or books that have already been written, as long as there is still a need and scope for developing a publishing component. However, experimental book projects that already have a publisher with a clearly defined workflow adapted to support experimental books would most likely not be eligible for support (unless for example your application focuses on making further adaptations to this work flow), where book projects that are still unclear about the best way to turn the material into a published book would be. If you doubt whether or not your project qualifies, we are happy to advise on a case-by-case basis.

Can I apply with my PhD project?

One of the main interests of the OBF’s Experimental Publishing group is to explore how to adapt the publishing workflows of academic publishers to accommodate experimental publishing. Therefore it is crucial that an academic publisher is involved as a partner on any application to our open call by final submission at February 1st. Although this doesn’t necessarily exclude any PhD projects, do be aware that it might be more difficult to find a publisher interested in publishing a book based on research for a PhD that has not yet been finalised and examined and that at the end of your proposed pilot project (in April 2026) we would expect either a published book and/or a finalised publishing workflow to support your experimental book to be ready.

What open source tools and platforms for experimental book publishing are available?

In our open call we have stressed the importance of pilots engaging with open source platforms and technologies. A core principle of COPIM and the OBF project is the inextricable link between open access licensing for scholarly works and open source licensing for software. Open source tools, platforms, and technologies can, in principle, foster the more collaborative, open, fluid, and equal processes and forms of knowledge creation, evaluation, and distribution that we want to explore  with our experimental book pilot projects. We are keen to highlight and promote the open source tools, technologies, platforms and software that are already available to support experimental forms of publishing, whether they are custom-designed for academic books or not.

You can find a more detailed discussion of our rationale to experiment with open source tools and platforms  in our documentation of the Combinatorial Books: Gathering Flowers pilot project here:

Our Experimental Publishing Compendium showcases a selection of open source tools and platforms that could be used for these pilot projects: But any other open source tool, software, or platform not listed here that you would like to experiment with for your book project would be suitable too with the right rationale.

What will you look at in the pre-application check?

Shortly after the deadline for the open call on 22nd November, OBF’s Experimental Publishing group will do an initial check of the applications we have received to ensure they generally abide to the eligibility criteria as listed in our open call. Bear in mind that the Open Book Futures project, as well as our open call, focuses on academic publishing workflows for books, hence we cannot accept applications that do not concern academic books or won’t involve an academic publisher (whether already part of the project team when applying or proposed as a potential partner).

What will the matchmaking workshop be focused on?

Some of the main issues we want to address with our work on experimental book publishing, include 1) the lack of awareness amongst scholars and publishers of the open source tools, platforms and software available to support experimental book publishing, 2) publishers not having the needed socio-technical publishing workflows to support experimental books, or not having the skills or expertise to develop these, and 3) lack of awareness amongst scholars of which publishers do currently support the publication of experimental books, or are interesting in doing so in the future.

Given the above we expect it will be quite hard for those of you interested in submitting an application for a pilot project to bring a full team together as per our eligibility criteria, especially for example for early career scholars who might find it hard to approach a publisher for their proposal. This is where we hope we can help! If your application meets the eligibility criteria as we will assess in the pre-application check, we can help you identify suitable authors, publishers, and/or tools and software providers to form a full team. We will also organise a matchmaking workshop for individual applicants to present their pilot project proposal at, and we will invite suitable author communities, publishers, and tool and software providers to attend this workshop. Do identify any potential partners you already have in mind in your application as we will do our best to invite them to this workshop. We hope this workshop will help you identify potential partners or collaborators, or help them learn more about your proposed project. We of course hope this helps you in bringing together a team to make a final application for our open call, or alternatively will allow you to work together in other ways, beyond or in addition to our open call.

After the matchmaking workshop, the applicants will have the possibility to adapt and revise their applications where needed in exchange with the OBF’s Experimental Publishing group. More details about this workshop and how we intend to run it will be available at the end of November. For now please save the date....

Who will be assessing the applications after final submission?

Once you have submitted your application with your full team at final submission on February 1st, your application will be reviewed taking into account the eligibility and feasibility requirements and assessment criteria as outlined in our open call. The experimental book pilot projects are part of an OBF pilot to further develop the Development Fund of the Open Book Collective (OBC), and hence all applications will be assessed by members of the OBC Board of Stewards, together with members of the OBF experimental publishing group. As pilot projects are due to start on 1st April 2024 we will let you know about the outcome of this assessment as soon as possible.

Why are we documenting the pilot projects?

In our open call we emphasised the importance of documenting the pilot projects in the spirit of openness, accessibility, and sharing. This documentation serves several purposes. Amongs others we are documenting any changes to publishing workflows that the publishers involved in the pilot projects will be making to enable and accomodate (future) experimental book publishing projects. This to explore how these kinds of books sit within their more standardised or established print and online book production, dissemination, and preservation systems. The documentation therefore serves as a means to share with other presses and author communities how to set up similar projects, to help them to start experimenting with the publication of experimental books, and to showcase the open source tools and technologies out there that can be adapted to established publishing workflows (or the other way around). Furthermore, we hope that this documentation can feed back into the research and resources we have been creating, including the Experimental Publishing Compendium.

You can find documentation on the previous pilot projects here:

Can I apply with a bilingual or non-English language publication?

Our open call states explicitly that we welcome applications from international project teams and we will endeavour to support teams and pilot projects from non-English-speaking regions. In our team, we sufficiently speak and understand Dutch, English, German, French, Italian, and Spanish. However, to facilitate communication and collaboration it is advisable that the main contacts for the pilot projects as well as the contact person for the partnering press have sufficient English language skills. For project teams whose main language is not among the languages spoken by members of OBF’s Experimental Publishing group, it is essential that both the main contact for the pilot project and/or of the partner press, speak sufficiently English.



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