Celebrating 10 years of IOP ebooks – Physics World

Celebrating 10 years of IOP ebooks – Physics World

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In our frenetic world of 24/7 news and algorithm-powered content jostling for our attention, there is something reassuring about the continuing popularity of books. Especially within the academic community, the book format continues to be deeply valued as a means of cutting through the noise and summarizing the latest thinking on a diverse range of topics.

Indeed, the IOP ebooks programme turns 10 this year and shows no sign of diminishing, having already surpassed 800 titles and more than 16 million chapter downloads. “The demise of the scholarly book is something that’s been predicted for several decades now because there are so many other competing sources of information out there,” says David McDade, head of IOP ebooks. “And yet, here we are in 2023, hundreds of authors want to write books for us, and those books are downloaded hundreds of thousands of times a year.”

McDade was speaking in a recent episode of the Physics World Weekly podcast, as both IOP ebooks and Physics World are both produced by IOP Publishing. He praised the tenacity of his colleagues in building the ebooks programme from the ground up during the last decade. Looking to the future, McDade would like to see ebooks incorporate more interactive features, while being careful not to lose the essence of what makes a book unique. He also considers how the open access movement is starting to shake up academic book publishing models.

Available in multiple digital formats and full colour print, IOP’s ebooks are primarily aimed at researchers and students in postgraduate courses. To date, more than 1500 authors have contributed to books, spanning 17 different subject areas – from quantum science to environment and energy, and even venturing into culture, history and society. Within the catalogue, the three main categories of book are: research and reference texts; course texts; and broad interest titles.

Evolving formats, human support

“The IOP’s profit model goes right back into science. So as a scientist, I think you can feel good about a book – which may or may not be a bestseller – but will be used for the right things,” says Lincoln Carr, a theoretical physicist at the Colorado School of Mines, US. Carr is an editor in a current IOP series in quantum technology and has been involved in the IOP ebooks programme since its inception.

Carr, who appears in the video at the top of this article (filmed at the APS March Meeting 2023) predicts there will always be a place for traditional printed books, but within academic publishing the ebook format will eventually take over completely. “It’s not going to be about having a beautiful book from the 1880s, or even 1960s. It’s going to be about having books that incorporate digital content, that one day work with VR and AR,” he says.

The film also includes a testimonial from José María De Teresa, editor of the 2020 IOP ebook Nanofabrication: Nanolithography techniques and their applications. “[Seeing the book published] was a great joy that I shared with my friends, my colleagues and my family because I thought that I was making an impact in the field,” says De Teresa, based at the Institute of Nanoscience and Materials of Aragon, Spain. “It was a pleasant collaboration, there was a fluent communication between the IOP office and myself.”

Visit the IOP ebooks website to learn about the process for becoming an author or for accessing the titles – as an individual or as an institution.

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