Tag Archives: textbooks

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.