November 19, 2015, by Mike Munro

Ten students, three days, one book.

Last week, ten first-year English students accepted the challenge of writing and producing a book in just three days.

It may sound like an impossible task but the School of English ‘Book Sprint’ was a student-led response to a wider academic debate, examining the future of academic publishing, as part of National Academic Book Week.

Although perhaps more familiar with a two-week deadline for a 2000 word essay, the group proved they were able step up to the task, producing a fully formatted 59 page digital handbook by the end of the third day.

Still a relatively novel approach, ‘book sprinting’ is the technique of creating a book collaboratively in a short and defined period of time, usually 3-5 days. Collaborators meet with nothing but the topic determined and aim to produce and make available a copy of the book by the end of the process.

Facilitated by Dr Spencer Jordan, the group spent Monday to Wednesday flitting between various rooms in the Trent Building, gathered around their laptops, planning and writing an original book. The subject matter was particularly close to heart as the first-year students decided to produce a ‘An Insider’s Guide to Starting University’, aimed at students going through the very experiences that they went through themselves just two months ago.


Dr Jordan said: “We wanted to give the students the real-life experience of writing and publishing their own book. What they produced went way beyond what I thought they could produce in three days.”

It is hoped that the finished guide will form an important part of the School’s induction materials for new students in the future.

Harriet Williams was one of the students involved in the process. Her interest in publishing and a desire to understand more about the process led her to volunteer for the book sprint. She said: “Taking part in the Book Sprint was the one of the best opportunities I could have had in my first year here at Nottingham.”

“It was a brilliant way to meet like-minded people in order to write something meaningful and useful. Even though it wasn’t something I’d ever heard of, I’m so glad I got the opportunity to partake in something so challenging and memorable.”

On Thursday 12 November a separate event, Sprinting to the Open Future, invited academics to explore the questions around how students and staff publish their work and the challenges they face. Introduced by Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Jeremy Gregory and chaired by Professor Sharon Monteith, the discussion examined a number of issues including, how postgraduate research students find a publisher for their book and how students are being inspired to write the academic books of the future.

While the future of academic publishing may be uncertain, the #UoNBookSprint contributes an interesting case study to the debate between the digital world and the world of the printed book.

View the students in action:

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