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Online feedback welcomed for new study

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Who hasn’t sat in a Bible study group slightly distracted and pondered, “I wonder what John Q. Author was really thinking when he wrote that?” Or, “I wish there was more explanation about that.”

Or, “If I’d written this study….”

LifeWay Christian Resources is responding to those musings by thinking outside the typical box of the publishing world. “Open Access,” an online project launched by the Southern Baptist entity, is inviting users to go behind the scenes and see the entire process of publishing a LifeWay study.

The pilot project for Open Access is an as-yet-unnamed 2009 Bible study by Priscilla Shirer, a popular speaker and author and co-founder of Going Beyond Ministries.

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“Priscilla latched onto the technology of the project,” said Dale McCleskey, editor in chief in LifeWay’s leadership and adult publishing area. “She quickly saw the advantage it would give to have feedback from the community.”

More than simply observing the process, the Open Access project invites and relies upon customers responding to the unfinished resource with thoughts, opinions and ideas that they believe will make the study better. No idea is too big or too small. In fact, McCleskey is hoping that creative customers will offer ideas for the study’s title, cover art and other integral elements.

Customers who purchase the unfinished manuscript of Shirer’s study have access to a members-only message board where they can offer their feedback, comments and suggestions. Shirer occasionally will post her own thoughts and comments there as well.

In addition, community members receive a link to a private e-mail address where they can submit personal illustrations, stories, comments and questions related to the study. When the study releases in fall 2009, individuals who purchased the manuscript will receive finished copies of the book.

Open Access is a venture borne largely out of the self-publishing trend fostered by the Internet, McCleskey said.

“It’s a new avenue that the technology makes possible,” he said. “We’re either ahead of the trend or out on a limb.”

While Aaron Linne, a digital media producer at LifeWay, sees Open Access as “moving people more deeply and getting them more involved” in the study, he also hopes the project will allow individuals “to see some of the personalities of the people here at LifeWay and that they will realize the depth of work that goes into producing a great resource.”

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Besides the working manuscript, members’ community and e-mail opportunities, the Open Access project features a public blog area where anyone can stay up to date on the study’s progress through the blog posts of LifeWay employees working on the resource.

In fact, long before the manuscript became available for purchase, publishing team members were charting the project’s progress on the Open Access blog and through Twitter, a micro-blogging site that provides daily glimpses into the project.

“Our goal is to get people the information they care about in the way they want to get it,” Linne said.

The project will continue at least through December. In January, Shirer is scheduled to film the digital segments of the study. Feedback from Open Access project could influence that facet of the project as well.

“The message is always what matters to me,” McCleskey said. “She [Shirer] is talking about an extraordinary kind of Christian life. Open Access is a means to an end, so we can get the message as sharp as it can be.”
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Brooklyn Noel is is a corporate communications specialist with LifeWay Christian Resources. For more information or to become involved in the Open Access project, visit www.lifeway.com/openaccess.

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