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Drama Online Library for Bloomsbury Academic

The background

Bloomsbury Academic publishes approximately 1,100 books a year and has a prestigious portfolio which includes Methuen Drama and The Arden Shakespeare. Bloomsbury Academic formed an innovative partnership with Faber & Faber, with the objective to bring the rich heritage of their lists together to enable them to develop a groundbreaking new digital product offering students, researchers, academics and practitioners a unique new way to study drama.

The new product would not be just for students of literature. Nor would it be only for reading plays, but for performing them. It would balance the needs of a theatre practitioner with that of a Shakespeare scholar, using digital to break the bounds of the printed text.

The product needed to introduce new writers alongside the most iconic names in playwriting history as well as provide contextual and critical background through scholarly works and practical guides. The collection would not be static, but would grow over time to meet the full range of teaching needs for theatre studies, literature courses and drama schools. It would also need to be flexible enough to deliver contextual images, audio and video as new partnerships were agreed
going forward.

The solution

Bloomsbury needed to work with a partner who could help them define the complex nature of the product and manage the process of bringing the product to market. Following an open tender, we were awarded the contract to deliver Drama Online Library within our Scolaris content platform and via our SAMS access management system.

We worked closely with Bloomsbury on the initial design phase, helping to define and hone the complex requirements into a simple and intuitive user interface. A key part of this phase was to design the product in such a way that it would work on tablets – imperative for the drama practitioner audience. Significant time was also devoted to working with the publishers’ data experts to ensure that the huge complexity in the eclectic corpus was captured. We also worked closely with Bloomsbury to develop the Drama Online brand and visual identity and developed a custom eReader to ensure that the text stayed at the centre of the user experience.

Key elements included:

  • DocBook and TEI data formats
  • Play texts and secondary contextual scholarly content
  • Unique reading interface
  • Interactive tools
  • Notes and annotations
  • Monologue finder



Highly Commended 2013

The result

Drama Online Library launched in May 2013 to great critical acclaim. It won a ‘highly commended’ award at the 2013 ALPSP Awards for Publishing Innovation.

“The platform offers robust original functionality beneath a clear and simple user interface, providing a tool which clearly enhances the study and performance of drama.”

ALPSP judges comment