The Digital Book

Course Organiser: Dr Daniel Boswell
10-14 July

This course will provide an introduction to digital book culture from the vantage point of the twentieth century onwards. The historical basis for the development of digital technology and its application to creative industry will be explored, as well as the after-effects of digitisation on work processes and the publishing economy.  Following the introduction we will examine particular aspects of the digital revolution in greater detail, with a focus on how this new landscape has encouraged adjustments in literacy, design, production, and the day to day workings of a traditional publishing house. We will consider contemporary figures whose contributions to digitisation have been influential in this evolution, and we will also draw on theoretical comparisons between past and present by investigating ‘the eBook’ from a top-down perspective to draw conclusions about the features of digital texts that reflect aspects of the past eras of text. The course tutor teaches broadly on subjects surrounding digital book culture in the twentieth century, globalisation and entrepreneurial publishing on the MA in Publishing at UCL.

Course Outline


1 Introduction to Digital Publishing
2 Digital Literacy


3 Printing in the Digital Age
4 Ebooks
5 Case Study: Project Gutenberg 


6 Online Media and Online Marketing
7 Digital Design
8 Case Study: The Waste Land


9 The Digitised Publishing House
10 Rights in a Digital Age
11 Case Study: Harry Potter


12 Digital Books and Global Markets
13 E-readers & Case Study: Kindle

Outcomes for Students

  • To gain an overview of the principal historical phases in the development of digital books over the course of the twentieth century, through to the twenty-first.
  • ​To gain a grounding in the terminology and theoretical understanding of digital technologies.
  • To gain an overview of format and production developments, both in terms of book files and reader technologies.
  • To examine some of the contributions of key historical figures in the development and popularisation of digital texts.
  • To compare and contrast the effects and outcomes of the digital revolution with previous historical phases in the development of texts.  

Recommended Introductory Reading

To follow. 

Dr Daniel Boswell joined University College London’s Department of Information Studies as a Teaching Fellow in September 2015 to work as part of the MA Publishing team within the UCL Centre for Publishing. Prior to his appointment at UCL, he was a Lecturer at Anglia Ruskin University within the department of English and Media, where he was Acting Course Leader on the Publishing postgraduate programme and delivered modules in History of the Book on the English undergraduate programme.

Daniel's main research interest centres around small nation cultural production with a focus on issues surrounding minority languages and translation, and also the cumulative and differentiating aspects of globalisation and identity. Digital development is also a key concern. In his present role he is also concentrating on pedagogical research around the developing field of publishing studies as an academic discipline and subject group.