Books as Open Online Content #BOOC

In the past 10 years as a learning technologist or eLearning consultant, I’ve come across many new ideas, concepts, techniques, technologies, methods, cultures, etc. I’ve learned about open source software and open badges and open access journals, and open courses. Now I’ve just learned about open books, specifically BOOCs (Books as Open Online Content).

What is a BOOC?

“These innovative ‘living books’ feature articles of various types, in a non-linear thematic presentation that offers readers the option to select and sort subjects they wish to read. With long and short articles, blogs, videos, audio and Storifys, these ‘books’ grow over a period of time.” UCL Press.

How I see the BOOC is that it’s a free ebook, but not something for your Kindle or Kobo or eReader. This is a browser based resource that can be text, image, video or audio based (ideally a mix of all of them?) that can build and expand as the authors continue to research and write. The platform that UCL has built is really good, for the explanation of BOOCs, that enables the content to the flagged/tagged under one of four headings, each displayed graphically using different colours (as below). The content is capable of being in more than one ‘category’ so you can read this BOOC from the perspective of ‘libraries’, ‘publishing’, ‘bookselling’, or ‘academic’.

There are many instances where, when wanting to read and learn about something, the most up to date and highly respected book is still out of date. For example, any reference book or ‘how-to’ book is out of date as soon as the author has written it. Then you add the lead time, production and publication time to the equation, and the latest ‘best’ book on the subject could be as much as a year out of date. Anything I want to read about my own interests (learning technology, social media, etc.) falls into this category. To get around this I read mostly blogs and long articles I find and am pointed to by friends on Twitter. This does not mean I get the whole picture, just one view.

A BOOC (researched, references, and peer-reviewed) would help me here? Yes, it’ll still take time to write and review all the content, but it can be ‘released’ in chunks / sections as they become available, enabling the information to be read and used, the authors can get valuable feedback and keep previously released material up to date while progressing the rest. I’m sure it’d be a huge production to do something like this, but exciting none the less? 

I like this. I’m sure there are some WordPress themes that could also handle something similar, along with a clever developer, if not a dedicated website template.

“BOOC is not the answer to the question, ‘What will the academic book of the future be?’ – and it doesn’t claim to be. It is, however, the tangible result of a great deal of consultation, discussion, innovation, and perseverance. It represents some of the issues – contentious, complicated, deep-rooted, emerging, and provocative – that confront everyone who engages with academic publication.” Dr. Rayner.

What do you think? Is this a route you’d use for your own academic authoring and publishing? Would you read a ‘book’ like this, knowing it’s (a) not complete, but (b) kept up to date and features  feedback and changes in the subject / topics?

Image source: modified from Brian Smithson (CC BY 2.0)