Connecting dots for digital learning and teaching

So Why Aren’t Your Students Self-publishing Their Own Books?


This topic is from the old blog post of our guest blogger Peter Pappas, but we still think it’s very worthful to share it again. This is a meaningful thread following the thought of our previous blog post “It’s a Digital World, Why not Digital Textbook ?” : “Let’s not make students “sit and get” when it comes to digital content, but instead, make them part of the engaging content assets. (so are teachers)

self publishing

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So why aren’t your students publishing their own books?

Part 1

We all struggle to create authentic writing experiences for our students. Imagine if they had an opportunity to see their work in print – and we’re talking about a real paperback.  Let them go through the process of writing, co-editing, illustrating and designing a book. Rigor and relevance meets motivation and self-directed study. I’ve gotten so excited by the results that I’ve done workshops to train teachers. You can see material and sample student books at my website Read > Think > Write > Publish.

I recently discovered Lulu.com – a print-on-demand publisher. I’ve used it to publish five books for a dear friend and author – Abe Rothberg. He wrote the manuscripts. I formated them in Word and converted them to a PDFs. I designed the covers in Photoshop and converted them to a PDFs. I uploaded the PDF files to the Lulu website. Cost so far – nothing!

Lulu doesn’t actually produce any books until one is ordered. Then the magic starts – Lulu takes my PDF files and produces a perfect-bound book and ships it to the buyer.

The money side at Lulu is pretty straightforward. No charge for uploading a book. (If you want to give it an ISBN number, that’s $35). Book production costs are $4.53 per book plus .02 per page black and white (.15 per page color). Example: a 50 page book with b/w text would cost you $.5.53 plus shipping. No costs are incurred until a book is ordered.  As a book author you can limit sales to only yourself, and buy unlimited books at cost (with a break on author’s orders of more than 25).  If you want to offer the books for sale to the public, you can set the price. You get 80% of the mark up over production cost. Lulu keeps 20% and sends you the royalty checks. They will also host your book as a downloadable e-Book for free.

BTW –  Abe has had a distinguished career as a journalist, university professor and author of seven published novels, two books of history, a collection of short stories, two children’s books, and a volume of literary criticism. His previous work was published by mainstream publishers and has been favorably reviewed in NY Times, Harper’s, Time Magazine, and Publishers Weekly. He’s also a dear friend and mentor whose previous work had gone out of print. We decided to cut out the middle man. For more on Abe go to his website – Abraham Rothberg

PS – I don’t work for Lulu

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Part 2

It’s been nearly a year since I first raised that question. In case you haven’t heard – print on demand technology has made it possible to produce beautiful hard cover and paperback books without minimum runs or prohibitive upfront costs. During the last year, I have helped teachers from across the country get started on digital publishing. Kids are motivated by producing books for an authentic audience. Publishing helps students master course content and develop project management and teamwork skills. The power of publishing enables students to think like writers, to apply their learning strategies and to organize and express their learning. It exemplifies the best of the information revolution –students as creators of content rather than as passive audience.

I find that a publishing project is a great way to ensure that my training workshops get put to use back in the classroom and result in teachers having the chance to reflect on their practice by looking at student work.

I continue to add material my website – Read>Think>Write>Publish. Go there and you’ll find downloadable template books and tech guides. I also have posted sample student books that you can use as models to motivate your students. You can download them as a free pdf or order them published at cost.

Stay tuned – student publishing is going to be big!

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Not only self-publishing industry and print-on-demand are mature now. Tools for self-publishing are growing explosively (check out this curation for ebook making tools), also mobile app creation is another way to publish. Actually, to express yourself, to speak your voices, there are so many publishing tools : podcasting, photography, drawing/illustration, animationvideo/filming, even a game design, mix-up of multimedia and re-create from others’ work. Thanks to new technologies, publishing a book could mean much more than producing text contents. Students with different talents could express themselves in different forms with low cost through digital tools, we think teachers could, too. And the possibility of collaboration is never easier than before. This kind of digital skills will get more and more important in this digital age.

From the other side, open educational resources (OER) / open source multimedia, sound and photo are shared through the convenience of internet and web2.0 tools, the barrier of publishing customized or personlized e-textbooks is lowered. Why aren’t teachers publishing their own e-textbooks ?

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About Peter Pappas

Peter Pappas is a very experienced educators and an education thought leader. This is his brief biography.

I am proud of my life-long career in public education – especially the 25 years I spent as a teacher. For over 20 years, I have worked with school districts, state DOEs, leading educational organizations and companies to improve the quality of teaching and learning. I provide training and consulting services across the United States and internationally.

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“Tell me and I will forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I will understand.” -------- Chinese Wisdom "Games are the most elevated form of investigation." -------- Albert Einstein
"I'm calling for investments in educational technology that will help create digital tutors that are as effective as personal tutors, educational software as compelling as the best video game," President Barack Obama said while touring a tech-focused Boston school (year 2011).
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