What is a Book Sprint?

A Book Sprint brings together a group to produce a book in 3-5 days. There is no pre-production and the group is guided by a facilitator from zero to published book. The books produced are high quality content and are made available immediately at the end of the sprint via print-on-demand services and e-book formats.

The Sprint Table

The Sprint Table

The Book Sprint is a process for collaborative engagement and knowledge production. Simply put, it is a group of people and a facilitator coming together to write a book in three to five days. This form of writing has both a technical and a social dimension, which together enable the book to be written. Most important, a Book Sprint opens a space of collaboration for knowledge extraction, generation, and production.

The role of the facilitator is central to Book Sprints. The facilitator governs the content development process, manages the group dynamics, mediates controversy, and imposes the unalterable deadline. While the facilitator is a member of the group, the facilitator never takes part in actual writing. Therefore he or she does not contribute to the content of the book. The role of the facilitator is to create an enabling environment in which the group can collaborate creatively and purposefully. The facilitator aims to make sure that every participant shares their ideas and takes part in the outcome of the book, enables participants to be engaged and to read and write together. Using a light-touch approach to increase motivation, with care toward different learning styles, the facilitator may also have to carefully manage potential and real conflict.

Book Sprints make use of a set of key content-development patterns: Concepting, Structuring, Writing, Revising, and Publishing. These patterns include practices and techniques that are employed by the facilitator and the contributors throughout the different phases of the process. They are not necessarily sequential phases that happen in the order presented here, but instead may happen at the same time or may be revisited at any time as needed during the Book Sprint. Some of the patterns have dependencies: revising will require some written text to work with, and publishing depends on having a revised version of the book. Certain patterns may be more important to a particular Book Sprint, depending on the space and on the development of a particular process.

So what does a Book Sprint do well? A useful way of thinking about what kind of material can be best addressed by a Book Sprint is to consider two modes of knowledge production that the Book Sprint operates in. The first, the extractive Book Sprint, is generally employed to document and describe known objects, processes, or work practices. Technical manuals represent an exemplar for the descriptive process that takes place in this mode. The second is the generative Book Sprint, which is used to create new concepts, enable critical reflection on practice, produce new ideas, practices, and meanings. In reality both of these modes may be woven together, as they operate on a continuum. But it is generally useful to have in mind the kind of activity that a particular Book Sprint will be geared toward.

Some of the things Book Sprints do well include:

  • Opening a space for critical reflection on practice.
  • Eliciting knowledge from subject-matter experts, e.g., legacy or new technologies, text books, NGO reports, etc.
  • Creating responses to fast-changing social and political controversies.
  • Facilitating new networks and vocabularies between individuals and organizations.

BookSprints.net is where the Book Sprint methodology all started.

History of Book Sprints

The term ‘Book Sprint’ was coined by Tomas Krag and the Book Sprint method was founded by Adam Hyde. In the first sprints held under this term Tomas brought together a small group of people for a week to plan the outline for a book and then the group worked remotely on developing and editing the contents over a period of 6-9 months.

Adam met Tomas at an event organised by Aspiration and was inspired to try something similar with FLOSS Manuals but with the aim to produce the entire book in 5 days. Zero to book in 5 days. This rapid development of a book in 5 days is the Book Sprint method.

Since founding the method four years ago Adam has refined the methodology greatly and facilitated more than 80 Book Sprints – each wildly different from the other. There have been sprints about software, activism, oil contract transparency, collaboration, work spaces, marketing, training materials, open spending data, notation systems, Internet security, making fonts, OER, art theory and many other topics.