TESOL Spain 2013
Posted by Kevin on 3 December, 2012
Our proposal has been accepted for TESOL Spain! The event is titled “Teaching with Technology and the Human Touch” and Kevin and Byron will be making a contribution entitled “Producing Materials for Blended Learning: Including the Individual”. It is scheduled for 9am on the Saturday. Seville is one of my favourite places, so I am really pleased to be going, and Byron has never been there before, so I hope we will have time to look around the city as well. Do let us know also if you will be there so we can have a chat.
For details of the event, go to the events page.Read More
ELTigers of India and Asia
Posted by Byron on 21 August, 2012
Is India the new place to be? With GDP rising year on year (6.5% in the past twelve months – compare that with the UKs feeble (as in zero) growth over the same period. India is rapidly emerging as the new economic superpower. Pundits are predicting that Educational Technology will be driven by the Indian market in the next couple of decades.
While it’s certainly true that almost every UK publisher either is currently or has in the past outsourced digital production to Indian companies – with occasionally mixed results – they have been perceived more as “production lines” rather than an innovators, in the same way that printing houses make books but don’t go about actually publishing them. As far as India is concerned a new breed of educational entrepreneurs might mean that this is all changing. Digital is where the market is going, and India has the capacity and know-how. And more Indians speak English than any other language, with the sole exception of Hindi. What’s more, English speakers outnumber those in all of western Europe and there are more than twice the number of English speakers in India than in the UK (source: Times of India). If Greece can generate such internationally-known ELT publishers as Express, why not India?
In fact Asia overall is the place for growth in ELT right now, and has the highest growth rate for digital ELT products in the world at 21.0% . Revenues will climb to $1.4 billion by 2016, according to a new report by Ambient Insight called “The Asia Market for Digital English Language Learning Products and Services: 2011-2016 Forecast and Analysis.” In this report, five-year revenue forecasts are broken out for South Korea, China, Japan, Taiwan, India, Indonesia, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, and New Zealand (New Zealand?). A free Abstract is available here. The price of the full report is eye-wateringly expensive, but the abstract costs nothing and contains plenty of fascinating statistics and details.
International Teacher Development Institute – act now!
Posted by Byron on 21 August, 2012
A quick update for all our happy readers from the International Teacher Development Institute, the new teacher training service that provides a range of extremely cost-effective, online –only professional development programmes.
I received ITDI’s first-ever newsletter on Friday – definitely worth visiting the site and registering if you haven’t already done so. They already have 600 members in over 70 countries, and this month’s featured teacher is none other than Scott Thornbury. If you act fast, they have a special offer on till Aug 26th –two featured online lessons for only $3.00 each. The price of a cappuccino!
To see the special promotion and find out what else ITDI can offer you, go to http://itdi.pro/itdihome/promo.php
Publishing Yourself, Part 2 – Apple or Kindle?
Posted by Byron on 19 July, 2012
Last time we had a look at iBooks Author, Apple’s very own self publishing tool. As I mentioned, the main problem – if problem it is – concerns the fact that any ebook written using the iAuthor platform will only work on iOS devices, which primarily means the iPad (though I personally am happy enough reading a text only book on the iPhone, too). The iPad is a massive seller, of course – but what about all those Kindles out there?
Sales estimates (unlike Apple, Amazon doesn’t publish Kindle sales figures) are that sales rocketed last year, especially after the Kindle Fire was introduced. According to the charts at Business Intelligence, Kindle sales exceeded 20m units last year; this is roughly half iPad sales worldwide, but we should remember that a Kindle is primarily a reader, not a multi-purpose device like the iPad, and for the past year eBook sales have outstripped trad book sales . So if you don’t fancy a bite of the Apple – and of course Kindle formatted books can be read on the iPad as well! – you could opt to write your book for the Kindle / Kobo platforms, and put it up on Amazon, the mother of all online bookstores.
Writing an eBook for the Kindle means using the ePub format. Best to start with a plain text file (not Word, which you will have to convert) and then edit it (and images if you want) using appropriate software. A good (and free) ePub software editor is Sigil , which can be found at http://code.google.com/p/sigil/. You can add an image for your cover, contents and tagged contents respectively using Sigil’s semantics, headings and metadata tools (not as bewildering as it sounds, believe me).
When all is done, save it in Sigil’s ePub format. You’re now ready to go as far as the majority of eBook readers are concerned (iPad, Kobo, iPhone) but not quite ready for Kindle yet, as the device currently uses Mobipocket and you’ll need to convert it. This can be done for you using Kindle direct Publishing or you can convert and test it yourself (assuming you actually have a Kindle) using software such as Calibre (http://calibre-ebook.com/about).
Whew! By now – after much cursing and the odd sleepless night – you will have taken the raw text you started with and have an eBook ready to sell.
Next time – what to write and how to sell it.
Google announces the Nexus 7
Posted by Byron on 28 June, 2012
Tablets are the place to be right now. I am, of course, delighted with my iPad 2 – a constant companion which really has changed the way I work and play (or at least made both much easier). Newest kid on the block – which might just rival the Apple machine and its closest rival, the Samsung Galaxy – is the Nexus 7 from Google. The Nexus looks sleek and appealing, and is more pocketable that some of its competitors with a screen size of 7 inches (17.8 cms) – roughly the same size as the Galaxy or indeed the Amazon Kindle. It runs the latest version of Android (which rejoices in the name of Jelly Bean) and comes with Google Chrome as its standard browser. US, UK, Canada and Australia will be the launch territories for the new tablet in mid-July.
Best of all, it will have a UK price tag of just £159 (8GB version). Much more flexible than the Kindle, I know which I would rather spend money on. In fact I’m already lining it up as possible birthday present material – which I couldn’t financially consider with the iPad (so of course the kids just borrow mine). Check out the full story at the BBC.
Publishing Yourself – a Look at the Choices
Posted by Byron on 26 June, 2012
We all have a book in us, so they say. Some, like Harper Lee, only one. Others, like Dickens, are a tad more prolific. Whatever your ambitions, once you start writing, you only have two options – keep it to yourself or publish and be damned.
In the good old days, the latter option meant that you have to convince a publisher that what you had was worth the considerable financial risk involved. Contrary to public belief, publishers don’t have a licence to print money. By the time they have paid their editors, rights assistants, salespeople, insurance, shipping, warehouses, designers, production, printers etc etc etc they have to be ABSOLUTELY certain the book is going to sell. Publishers will carry out a return-on-investment (ROI) analysis to check whether the forecast sales will justify the cost involved in bring the book to market.
The first thing of course is deciding exactly what to write, and why. Say – for example – you want to write a coursebook on English for professional footballers. It’s a brilliant concept, and you have some excellent ideas. You have a great track record and once taught the present continuous to Fabio Capello. You approach A Big ELT Publisher, and having run their ROI (not that you are likely to get that far) they politely inform you they will probably sell 250 copies, as their reps don’t visit football clubs. Assuming a price of £30 per copy, they won’t even begin to cover production costs. Even if they did publish your work, you would be very lucky to make more than a few tens of pounds in royalties, based on a net royalty of 10%. Your bright dream collapses.
But what if you published it as an eBook, yourself? It’s more work, but more rewarding – in every sense of the word. In the next couple of blogs we’ll take a quick peek at some of the options.
If you’re happy for your eBook to be available just in electronic format for Apple devices (and, let’s face it, there are a lot around – Apple has 50% of the tablet market, and that’s set to grow) you could do worse than use iBooks Author. This is free software from the app store or the iBooks Author website that allows you to create pretty cool eBooks, replete with photos, graphics and even animations. It was designed with educators in mind, and is template based, so (relatively) easy to use. Only problem is that you can only sell the finished product via the Apple iBookstore, but given Apple’s dominance I don’t think this is a huge deal breaker.
You can either sell just through iBookstore – which may achieve much lower sales, but you get to keep a whopping 70% of the sales price. Or you can maximise your chances of selling your iBook by going through an aggregator, which basically markets iBookstore books through a variety of resellers – note you’re still going through Apple to start with. An example is Bookwire. They take a cut of course – typically 45% of Apple’s price – but maximise your visibility.
So – rather than dreaming of 250 dead-tree books at £30, of which you receive about £1 a copy, you might actually sell ten times as many eBooks to footballers with international aspirations worldwide, bringing you a good deal more (though not quite in Fabio Capello’s ballpark).
Check out iBooks Author, then come back next week for a look at publishing for the Kindle.
Sunday Blog: Yes, even a Chicken can Use an IPad!
Posted by Byron on 17 June, 2012
During what must be the worst “summer” (ha ha rofl) in living memory our three hens have been floundering about in the muddy quagmire that used to be our garden, but are still producing eggs at the rate of one per day. However, read on … I aim to improve on their egg-laying capabilities via a mobile device….
The story – as reported in the Telegraph – concerns a lonely hen called Maia, whose best mate was gobbled up by a fox. The hen, traumatised and bereft of companionship, stopped laying. Instead of consigning the chicken to the stock-pot of history, her charitable owner decided to try to re-train her, using an iPad and appropriate videos. And I don’t mean Chicken Run – movies of real chickens running around, laying eggs, doing normal chicken stuff. Clearly there are people who film such things.
The results were frankly astounding. After just a few days Maia was back to full capacity (five eggs a week) and is keeping up with her tablet TV. Won’t be long before she gets a comfy beanbag and a few cans of lager in….sorry, she’s a hen, not a cockerel.
So there you have it. We now have conclusive proof that even a chicken can use an iPad (so what are you waiting for?) and that tablets, when used for self-access, can dramatically improve learning outcomes. See the pictures for yourself here.
There is of course a very serious side to this. As the prices of tablets come down, we’re going to see them everywhere. They are light enough for a child to carry, and robust enough to withstand the odd knock. Sales are predicted to top 60m units this year – just for the iPad. Overall tablet sales should reach 120m units – and that’s just in 2012. They are starting to overtake laptop sales. Leading universities and schools such as EF are experimenting with giving them to classes. I’m putting together some stats and will post these in the next week or two.
Next week – back to the serious stuff. There’ll be more on Lulu and the start of a short how-to series on publishing yourself.
Another one bites the dust…
Posted by Byron on 30 May, 2012
I was sorry to see today that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing – one of the oldest names in US publishing – has filed for bankruptcy along with twenty affiliated companies, including Broderbund and Classroom Connect.
Houghton-Mifflin’s poor financial performance has been blamed on the global financial crisis (hasn’t everything?) and falling funding for school text books, the company’s core market. A big reason, of course, is growing competition from all things digital. According to AAP (Association of American Publishers), sales of traditional adult books fell 18 percent from 2010 to 2011.
From its website, Houghton-Mifflin claims to provide educational products and services to about 60 million students in 120 countries, has an ongoing relationship with TESOL, a number of well-loved imprints and some excellent digital products – but just having digital materials is not enough by itself. Interestingly, I understand Houghton also prints and distributes e-books owned by one of Amazon’s publishing divisions, allowing Amazon to market books to those few people who don’t visit its site. The aim was to provide Houghton with a new source of revenue as sales decline at brick-and-mortar bookstores – a kind of reverse-engineering of the e-tailer model.
Against the collapse of real bookshops (remember Borders last year?) and the expiry of long-established traditional media publishers like Houghton, we have Pearson, whose sales of digital products increased by 18%, making up a third of the group’s total sales. Now we know where that missing 18% of US adult sales went. Yet Houghton, like Pearson, appeared to have a clear-headed digital strategy. After all, back in 2006 it was acquired by Riverdeep Interactive Learning, with the stated aim of capitalizing on the “convergence of print and digital education platforms”. And in 2007 the company bought Harcourt from Reed Elsevier. So what happened? It looks like a combination of financial mis-management and some unsound business decisions regarding their trade publishing operations a few years back. Whatever, the publisher of Mark Twain now faces a very uncertain future. I believe one of the problems publishers are facing is not just having “a digital strategy”, or a range of digital products – but being able to move swiftly to change that strategy and those products in tune with changes in demand that are increasingly rapid. Apps, for example. At the same time you’re investing in digital, if your roots are in traditional publishing you can’t afford to let that part of the business go either. Talk about rocks and hard places…
So farewell Houghton-Mifflin. If you’re in publishing – and you want to stay there – keep on top of your digital publishing strategy, and invest in those people – sales and marketing teams, editors, publishing directors, technical whizzes – who really know what they’re doing in the digital arena.
Sunday Blog: Coming home to Roost
Posted by Byron on 27 May, 2012
Carrying on from last week’s chicken blog, you may remember we have three hens on their way, the gift of friends who are moving to San Francisco. The past few days has seen considerable evening woodworking activity in the garden. At least it’s been sunny.
Having been informed that chickens like wood chips and a level playing surface by the authoritative Haynes Chicken Manual (yes, they are the very same publisher which produces practical DIY guides to the Ford Fiesta etc), I set about building a Chicken Runway. Our garden is on a gentle slope, and the coop is to be sited at the bottom, by the wall (potentially a convenient jump-off spot for passing foxes, but the coop is supposedly fox-proof). An evening’s work with a saw and several six-foot planks, bought at a modest cost from Blenheim sawmill, and I had a robust rectangular framework in place, like a very large raised vegetable bed. Proud of my achievement, as I am not really that handy with a toolkit, I then went and checked the measurements against the Eglu chicken coop plan. Really I should have done this first.
The second evening saw me dismantling the whole thing, as I had made it too small. This also meant a second trip to the sawmill for yet more planks to rebuild the frame to the correct size. I then had to fill the frame – all twelve square meters of it – with earth, to level the slope. By the time I had done all this I was beginning to regret the whole chicken idea, but a bath and a couple of glasses of Lidl’s finest (we are still in recession, after all) put me in a happier mood. All I had to do now was buy the wood chips, spread them in the frame, and we’d be ready for our Eglu eco-chicken house.
According to Omlet’s own website, hardwood chips are available “from all good garden centres”. This is sadly misleading. BARK chips are widely available – but they are quite different, and not recommended – too soggy, apparently. After calling most of the leading garden centres around Woodstock – and there are quite a few – I was eventually directed to a local sawmill. The very sawmill, in fact, where I had bought the planks. And the extra planks. This time I was welcomed as an old customer, and felt at one with the other horny-nailed outdoorsy DIY types who were busy buying stacks of rough timber, no doubt to built a huge garden deck or maybe an entire house. Six eighty-litre sacks of chips – what with the wood, and the chips, you’ll gather by now chicken ownership is not a low-cost venture – were ferried home on Friday evening, ready to be spread out like a red carpet for the chickens’ arrival – this very evening.
Lulu, Squidoo and the Art of Publishing Yourself
Posted by Byron on 24 May, 2012
Increasingly authors are realising that they can cut out the middlemen and produce their books themselves at minimal cost, and with (potentially) much better returns than the average ELT publisher can offer. Two of the best known self-authoring tools are Lulu and Squidoo; both enable the rapid creation and publishing of web-based and hard-copy resources.
Squidoo lets users create pages (rather bizarrely – and confusingly – called lenses) on practically any subject. Essentially it’s a community site, and one which is growing very fast, with over 1.5 million “lenses” (how I hate that word) to date. Squidoo is very big in the US, and has been publicised in the NYT and on CNN. Authors are called lensmasters, which makes them sound rather like whiskery wizarding characters from Dungeons and Dragons. You need no technical or programming knowledge whatsoever; the authoring process is even simpler than WordPress.
Lenses are effectively long blog posts and – here’s the interesting bit – allow users to generate revenue from referral links to sites like Amazon. 50% of all revenue goes to the authors – sorry, lensmasters; many of them use the cash to generate money for charities, but you can of course just spend the cash on exotic holidays for yourself instead. It’s a really nice idea, though one of the major headaches I’ve found about it is the feeble search facilities – it’s actually very hard indeed to find exactly what you’re looking for via a random search, unless you have the actual link.
For that reason – among others – would-be net authors might turn instead to the more enticingly-named ebook publisher Lulu. Again, Lulu is massive in the US, and has published over 1.1 million titles to date, with 20,000 titles being added to their catalogue each month. Lulu-published books can be distributed both as ebooks or in hard copy form, through retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble and its own online shop. The physical products, while not quite coffee-table standard, aren’t bad at all. The process for authors is relatively simple and not unlike traditional book publishing, even down to the allocation of ISBNs. One downside is that the author generally acts as his or her own editor / proofreader – not that easy without some professional help. So while Lulu is not great for complex multi-referenced titles such as coursebooks, it can provide an excellent channel for methodology and more niche titles which require less editorial input. I’d actually stick my neck out here and say that – if I were considering writing a methodology or teacher-training title – Lulu would be one of the first companies I’d look at. One important reason is the sizeable margin Lulu potentially offers.
After the deduction of printing costs, if any (those for physical books correlate to page count, paper size, binding and print type; printing is on-demand) the margin is split into 80% for the author and 20% for Lulu, making the arrangement far more profitable for the author, if they can sort out sales and marketing. That’s a big if, of course. Traditional ELT publishers would point out that they have marketing teams and field sales staff, but the truth is that sales reps hardly ever focus on methodology books, being targeted on large-scale coursebook adoptions. You could probably do better yourself using social networking media. To see an example of how Lulu works as a retailer, see David Petersen’s book on Reading the News on the Internet on the Lulu store.
One ESP author who is really embracing BOTH Squidoo and Lulu in a big way is author Virginia Allum, who has some excellent ESP titles out on both platforms, and uses one platform to cross-market hard copy titles on the other ( English for Doctors) . Take a look at her Facebook page if English for Medical Purposes is your thing, or if you’re interested in becoming a lensmaster (yuk!) yourself.
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