Tag Archives: publishing

EdStartup 101: Idea

What is your idea?

My idea is to publish graded readers for ESL and EFL learners and teachers that make the best use of digital tools for production, reading and study, and distribution. Basically, I want to set up a digital publishing house/studio/cooperative/press to take advantage of trends in school-based BYOD, Extensive Reading (ER) in language learning, and adult lifelong learning. Surprisingly, almost nobody is doing this.

What problem does your idea solve?

I believe this will solve a whole slew of problems. Conventional printed-on-paper graded readers are very limited and limiting. I may be a little into the ELT weeds here, but stick with me.

Our entire collection of graded readers for hundreds of students fits on the second and third shelves on the right.

1. Waste: Paper books are wasteful for libraries and schools: not very durable, limited in distribution, students don’t return them. Extensive Reading programs often have to replace 10% of their library every year.

2. Cost: Most conventional readers cost 5-10 USD. If an active learner needs one a week, this is a significant cost. Digital readers (apps or ebooks) can be cheaper.

3. Gatekeepers: Mainstream publishers want a more limited catalog both in number of titles and content. There is not enough content for adults-mainly for children. There just aren’t enough books, styles, or voices. A lot of graded readers are just plain boring because they are designed to meet the lowest common denominator.

4. Inconvenient: Paper books fail to take advantage of people’s devices for reading anywhere anytime. They also give up on all kinds of support for learners like better dictionaries, linked learning tools, convenient audio, better image support, etc.

5. Fixed: Paper books can’t be customized to schools, cultures, learners’ native languages, or individuals. Rapid fixes/new editions not possible.

6. Shelf space: Publishers like large series of books (30 or more) so they can get a good profile on bookstore shelves. I’ve been told not worth publishing in smaller series because nobody will sell them.

7. Time to market: Education publishers are slow. Sometimes painfully slow.

8. Nobody is provides graded readers with a complete solution: attached study tools, assessments, and convenient multimedia.

How does your idea fix the problem?

A purely digital company can run cheaper, faster, and more flexibly than a large conventional publishing house. No inventory, no offices, no fixed salary costs, but also able to take advantage of a large pool of teachers who are often writing, but not often publishing. With my plan, I can take chances and get into niches that nobody else wants. Digital readers can be cheap, customizable, everywhere, and of every kind.

Why do you want to fix the problem?

Because I had this problem as a language learning program coordinator. I wasted so much money every year buying books for students to mangle or lose. They are produced to be destroyed quickly, and thus replaced. I still have the problem now as a teacher who has to force less effective books on students for lack of anything else. I’ve also experienced this on the other side as an author waiting forever for a book to come out in print and have it be compromised.

Also, I think it would be fun.

PANSIG 2012 proposals

The JALT PANSIG 2012 call for papers closed yesterday. The conference theme is “Literacy: SIGnals of emergence”, and I think I managed to line up with it reasonably well. The conference is always a good weekend to get together with some old friends and meet some new teachers. The presentations are good and the audience is engaged. This year the conference will be held at Hiroshima University not far from Saijo, so I hope to get a little sight-seeing in as well. Naomi Fujishima is the conference chair so I felt like I had to support her and send in an request to present. Unfortunately,then I got a second idea, too.

The first proposal is based on work I’ve been pursuing over the years using wikis. My writing boss, Marcos Benevides, will be happy to see that I’m taking more of a task-based approach than he might have expected.

The PANSIG conference schedulers only want one proposal per person, but I hope the vetting gods will smile upon me for the second one. It isn’t anything to do with teaching or research, but a response to discussion on the JALT EBM-Net mailing list and recent discussions (sometimes heated) at the last JALT Executive Board Meeting. It’s an attempt to bring together writers and publishers from all of the SIGs to build up shared expertise in publishing by teachers for teachers. I was very lucky to have help from Jim Smiley and Andy Barfield in putting it together. And, Andy agreed to help conduct the session with me if we are accepted. I hope it all works out–it has been ages since I worked with someone else on a conference presentation, so that would be an added plus.

Proposal 1
Title: L2 reading/writing tasks with Simple English Wikipedia

Abstract: Simple English Wikipedia (SEWP) describes itself this way: “Wikipedias are places where people work together to write encyclopedias in different languages.” However, the primary English Wikipedia is far too demanding for most learners to contribute to. Simple English Wikipedia is much more inviting and offers a range of tasks for learners from low to high language proficiency that require students to think and allow them to communicate with native and non-native speakers of English. Participants will actually perform some of these tasks in this workshop and leave ready to try them with students.

Proposal 2
Title: SIG Publications Community Roundtable

Abstract: JALT SIG publications involve a diverse range of writing, editing and publishing where each SIG freely decides its publishing policies. Different editorial teams face many similar challenges in attracting writers, developing writing, and making the writing-publishing activities of the SIG inclusive and sustainable. This workshop is for SIG publications editors/editorial teams to discuss writing for, editing, and developing SIG publications. Please bring samples of your publications to exchange, together with a handout (paper and electronic) listing important information about: your SIG publication(s), writing successes your SIG has had, any challenges it faces, and plans for the future. We will discuss.

Wish me luck. The organizers already rejected my Hiroshima food-based theme suggestion, TepPANsig. I was really hoping for an okonomiyaki visual for the logo, but such is not to be. I hope Hasbro/Mattel doesn’t bust them for using Scrabble tiles.