Tuesday 19 August 2014

ALPSP Awards spotlight on... IOP ebooks™ from IOP Publishing: a born-digital books programme for physics

The ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing announcement is fast approaching.

In the latest in a series of blogs profiling the finalists of the Awards, we spoke to Christian Box, Head of Sales Operations at IOP Publishing, about the IOP  ebooks™ programme.

ALPSP: Tell us a bit about your company 

CB: IOP Publishing is a subsidiary of the Institute of Physics, a not-for-profit society. Our headquarters are in the UK but we have offices worldwide. We publish more than 70 journals across the physical sciences and beyond that we publish magazines, conference proceedings and more recently, ebooks.

ALPSP: What is the project that you submitted for the Awards?

CB: The IOP  ebooks™ programme is a brand new book programme launched in October 2013. Our vision is to create the leading collection of physics books for a digital world. We aim to do this by bringing together outstanding researchers from across the physics landscape, with a born-digital, innovative approach to book publishing to make us the publisher of choice in the physics community. Despite starting with no backlist, platform or production system we established and launched our programme in 12 months.

ALPSP: Tell us more about how it works and the team behind it

CB: To date, 10 books have been published across two collections – IOP Expanding Physics and IOP Concise Physics. We expect to publish 30-35 books by the end of the year. When we started the project, we were able to utilise a lot of in-house expertise from across the business (IT, production, marketing, the design studio etc.). We wanted to transfer the knowledge and skills we have in journal and magazine publishing into books and I think we've been able to do that well. Naturally we've had to add some new skill sets, including a new book commissioning team. We've also established key partnerships to support the programme – IOP Concise Physics is built in partnership with Morgan & Claypool, for example.

ALPSP: Why do you think it demonstrates publishing innovation?

CB: It’s a combination of factors, but in essence I believe that we have created the first book programme in STM Publishing designed around the digital version.

Over the last 5–10 years STM ebook publishing has progressed but we found that the vast majority were still based on the print model – what you might call “print books online” rather than ebooks. Our approach completely disassociates the two, meaning that we can focus on the digital delivery of our books. I would highlight three particular points within our programme that captures this.

Firstly, we believe the reading experience that we offer is the best in STM publishing. We publish all books in HTML, PDF and EPUB 3 and make them available as individual chapters or whole books. This puts the reader in control – allowing them to read the book the way that they want, on the device that they want. This also gives the authors the freedom to go beyond the constraints of the printed page – allowing the incorporation of multimedia and use of features such as MathJax.

Secondly, and associated to the reading experience, is the freedom of use. For our institutional customers our books have no DRM or restrictions on use, which means that a librarian can feel comfortable that they are buying unlimited, restriction-free content for their patrons.

Finally, we have moved away from a traditional print royalty model for rewarding our authors, to allow us the flexibility to fully embrace digital publishing without being constrained by the limits of a royalty model based on print.

What makes our programme innovative is the way we have bought all of these factors together to launch a true digital books programme. This is a real advancement in publishing.

ALPSP: What are your plans for the future?

CB: In terms of future expansion, we are commissioning new content in physics and other complementary subjects and plan to publish more than 120 books per year in 3-5 years. We are also developing the functionality on our platform, IOPscience, to offer the best reading experience and exploring new business models that provide flexibility for our customers.

Christian Box is Head of Sales Operation at IOP Publishing and was part of the team who developed the IOP  ebooks™ programme.

The winners will be announced at the ALPSP International Conference. Registration closes on Thursday 28 August. Book now to secure your place.

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