6 Sep 2013

Only Connect … the beginning of an unbook

Only Connect … Discovery pathways, library explorations, and the information adventure is an 'unbook' about information literacy. Its flexible and innovative format is a great example of sharing information and research in new ways. The (un)book is available freely online, and is also available in print on demand. Here, Emma (@Libgoddess) explains how the idea for the project came about between herself and Andy Walsh (@andywalsh999).

Guest Post by Emma Coonan, Cambridge University Library

As the worksheets were being passed around and the hum of the interactive exercise grew to a chatter, Andy and I continued our covert discussion.

“So what did you not like about the traditional way of publishing?” he muttered.

“Really, the whole idea of having to write in an academic way,” I whispered thoughtfully. “The fact that our authors couldn't use informal language, speak in their own voices, use their own preferred spellings. The way all the chapters had to be the same length!”

Andy nodded. “I hate how everything’s pushed into being textual. Why can’t there be room for people to express themselves not in words? Why can’t you publish academic stuff in the form of a video, or a Prezi?”

“And I hate signing away copyright!” I fulminated quietly. “I got so embarrassed asking authors to sign away their right to do anything with their own work.”

“Yeah,” he hissed intently. An arm came between us, distributing handouts. We ducked underneath. “Like, a Creative Commons licence would let authors get their work out there but still do whatever they want with it. They could put their chapters in institutional repositories, on blogs ... Hey, you could just put a whole book online electronically and make it completely free to access, why not?”

I made the ‘ohmahgard’ face. “Wow. If you had it all online, people could write exactly how they wanted - or they could not write, actually, at all! They could do like you said and use any kind of multimedia format they liked!”

“You could do a print version too if you wanted,” he said, thinking aloud. “Use something like LULU, a print on demand service - it’s so cheap now, and it works internationally ...”

“You could do your own marketing, at conferences and on JISCmail lists ... On Twitter ... “

“You can buy ISBNs, you know! Even if you’re not an official publisher!”

“It would be ... an unbook,” I said slowly. He nodded again. “An anarcho-narrative approach to information literacy.”

Our worksheets still completely blank, we looked at each other with a wild surmise.

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