Open University History of Books and Reading (HOBAR) Seminar

"Authors, Publishers, Serialisation, Readers"

Serialisation has often been the neglected step-child of the publishing process, seen by many simply as a means to earn money rather than critical esteem, often viewed as a rapidly produced, provisional and ephemeral version rather than the definitive ‘book’ produced for posterity. Indeed, bibliographers, the trade in first editions and rare books, and public perceptions of cultural and material value have often lead us to think of authors only as authors of great books. But what of the highly productive work of publication in serial form? How did authors negotiate contracts for serialisation with their publishers? How did serialisation shape the perception of a literary work in the minds of readers? To what extent is serialisation the prime mode for readers’ engagement with texts? How has technology and the digital changed the dynamics of serialisation? This seminar series looks at the complex and productive relationship between authors, publishers and serialisation as a primary mode of reaching audiences from the 19th century to the present day. It also seeks to examine the phenomenon of ‘series, serials, and serialisation’ more broadly. How did readers respond to the literary series, and in which reading environments were books in series consumed? What was the relationship between readers, periodicals, and their publishers?  


Dr Edmund G. C. King, Research Fellow in English, The Reading Experience Database, 1450-1945 (RED), Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, The Open University, Email:

Dr Shafquat Towheed, Director of the Reading Experience Database and Senior Lecturer in English, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, The Open University, Email:

Book History at The Open University.