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.
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.
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.
Forget the iPad and the Whiteboard – here come Google’s goggles…
Posted by Byron on 10 April, 2012
Just bought a £2000 interactive whiteboard? Or spent £500 on the next generation iPad? Dude, like, what a waste of your hard-earned cash. Whiteboards, as we all know, are so last century. What you should be doing is popping down to Specsavers for the very latest in designer eyewear.
If you think I have totally lost the plot, I‘ve actually been looking at Project Glass, the latest concept in augmented reality from the Google skunkworks. By combining various existing technologies, Project Glass combines all the features of a smartphone with a heads-up display on custom spectacles.
The youtube demo video is (almost literally) eye-popping – the device is always on, always accessible, and responds to voice commands. It guides you round the streets, orders your gig tickets, snaps the view, plays you music, calls your friends. The first adopters will think you’re bonkers when you start talking to your glasses, but it won’t be long before everyone’s doing it. And countless irritating advertisers will be sending you messages as you walk past their outlets.
Of course, it may be a while before the technology actually takes off. And you have to wear glasses, so those of you with 20/20 vision, forget it. But of course what Google are actually doing is demonstrating how they can put together the various parts of the Google “ecosystem” – maps, social networking, Android communications, Picasa – to meet everyone’s needs. They’re saying Google really can do it all, and have the content too – and that’s another poke in the eye for Apple, of course. Bit scary, when you think about it.
As for the actual glasses – well, in certain circumstances they might catch on. Needing glasses hasn’t done 3D cinema any harm. Imagine a class full of studious, bespectacled students avidly watching your latest presentation, all heads up and alert and watching YOU at the same time. Or an individual interacting in real time with their teacher during a distance learning class. As for me, I wear glasses anyway, so the moment they’re in the shops I’m sooo getting a pair…Read More
New ELT Author Agency Launches
Posted by Byron on 24 March, 2012
Just back from the joys of IATEFL. The conference itself will have been tweeted, blogged and Facebooked to death by now, so I won’t mention it again, except to say
(a) thanks to Jo, Kerry, Lucy and everyone else at Macmillan for a stonking party on Weds (so glad no one fell into the Clyde…as far as we know…)
(b) that Glasgow is a brilliant city and if you weren’t there plan your weekend away now.
So forget IATEFL until Liverpool 2013. What I want to flag up here is how to get just rewards for your creative talents.
In the world of fiction writing, the path to recognition for budding authors is not to start off with a magnum opus and send it off to three dozen publishers. That might have worked in the nineteenth century, but not now – and if J K Rowling had adopted that route she’d still be a single mum scribbling away in fast food restaurants. What people do is find an Agent (Christopher Little, in JK’s case). The Agent has all the right contacts and so can match your work to an appropriate publisher – and, far more important, an appropriate Editor within that publisher. The Agent, being a skilled and experienced negotiator, should work out the best deal for the Author, including things like merchandising, film and digital rights. That’s what happens in the world of fiction writing. It hasn’t happened in ELT – until now.
At the Macmillan party over a pint of cider I chatted with Nick Robinson about his Big Idea.
You may know Nick – he’s a hugely talented writer and editor, commercially astute and great at networking. Nick has just launched the first (as far as I know) agency for established and new authors. He’ll assess your skills and ideas, and – as he knows publishers – will be able to link up the right person in the right publishing house with You, the writer, on a project which is ready to go. This doesn’t cost anything – except, of course, a proportion of your fees (and he’ll be able to secure a better deal than you would, anyway). If you’re a publisher, you can fast-track your requirements rather than desperately looking for a talented writer for that new ESP title on Golf you’re putting out. (Actually, English for Sport would be a pretty cool ESP series). If you’re an established author it’s worth getting in touch too – you may think yourself as having sold your soul to OUP, but there’s nothing to stop you writing for Macmillan – or, on old titles, taking back your rights and selling the material elsewhere.
Of course it may be that you haven’t been published before, and you’re desperate to learn more about the writing and publishing process, and the personal business side (jolly stuff like VAT and Tax). Watch this space on that one…!Read More
Marjorie Scardino – laughing all the way to the online bank
Posted by Byron on 2 March, 2012
Very interesting news from Pearson this week. Pre-tax profits were up 72%, to $1.8 bn, chiefly due to the increase in digital revenues, which increased by 18% in headline terms to £2bn. This means that sales of digital products now account for 33% of Pearson’s sales. Students using Pearson digital learning programmes up 23% to 43m, and Penguin eBook revenues are up 106%, now accounting for 12% of total Penguin revenues.
According to the publisher’s chief executive Dame Marjorie Scardino, the proportion of sales derived from digital output and services – such as teacher training – was more than 50 per cent .
So for the first time (as far as I’m aware) a major “traditional” publisher is seeing more revenue from digital than from mainstream media.
This must leave the laggards in the digital sphere pondering about what to do next. Pearson in general – and Marjorie Scardino in particular – have always shown remarkable foresight in promoting digital products. Within their ELT publishing operations the path hasn’t always been rosy (remember Longman English Success, which singularly failed to live up to its name?) but persistence is winning out, chiefly (I think) because the market is now truly ready for the technology. The only other UK ELT publisher with a similar level of interest in new tech – though without Pearson’s super-deep pockets – has been Macmillan, with its terrific suite of digital products and services (Campus, onestopenglish, Global).
If I were neither Macmillan nor Pearson, I’d start looking at how to play catch up as quickly as possible, and getting my house in order, digital strategy-wise. There are some very interesting acquisition targets out there, maybe still at “bargain” prices – certainly compared to in-house development costs – and it’s definitely time to start scouting around.Read More
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