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Old 01-16-2013, 07:48 PM   #1
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Self-pubbing a textbook

I have a quick question. One of my jobs is teaching English to foreign speakers at a local university. For the lower levels, we don't have any textbooks, and one of the teachers has spent years developing her own material for the class. She has binders full of worksheets and activities that she has to copy every class. Needless to say, that's a lot of copies, and we recently got a lecture about using too much paper and so on.

I was talking to her about it after class and she was explaining that she has no choice because there's no book, only the documents she's created, and I got to thinking--is there a way she could self-publish the books for cheap? I was thinking Lulu let you print books for only a few dollars, right? I'm just not sure this would be the best service.

If there was a way to do it, it would be fantastic if she could print them, and then the students could pay for them. I was just thinking that it would be a good way to solve the problem of having to make copies for each student every class. Would just using a normal printing service be better/cost effective? Obviously these aren't things she wants available to the public or needs to ISBN or anything of that nature. Just a way to have bound copies made for each students at a low cost.
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Old 01-16-2013, 07:59 PM   #2
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I would suggest using a local printer. I would not use the word 'cheap' to describe lulu and their shipping prices are insane.
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Old 01-16-2013, 08:00 PM   #3
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My professors used both the university's in-house printer and a local copy shop.
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Old 01-16-2013, 08:08 PM   #4
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Using a copy shop would also allow the personal that created all these materials to build in a small profit. Which I think would be only fair?
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Old 01-16-2013, 08:31 PM   #5
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I'd do what they suggested. Print shops are great things. My mother works in one. When I was reading the truely epic typesetting threads, I asked her if she knew what a "river" was, and we went off on this conversation about kerning that completely baffled me. It was beautiful. So if you hit the right one, with the right design team, you can get some great results.
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Old 01-16-2013, 08:31 PM   #6
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I'd agree with your organisations print shop or bindery. Will cost a lot less than lulu and not require any delivery charges. You may even get a discount for being a staff member.

When I was printing rulebooks for LRP I generally got them done at the university print shop and the cost came to around 3 ($6?) for printing and soft binding.
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Old 01-16-2013, 08:42 PM   #7
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There's probably an official campus service that routinely creates "course readers" for the uni.

She'll need to be able to assert that she created all the materials or have copyright permissions for anything that isn't hers.
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Old 01-17-2013, 01:39 AM   #8
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Would any of these help?

http://www.esl.net/textbooks.html
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Old 01-17-2013, 01:57 AM   #9
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Would any of these help?

http://www.esl.net/textbooks.html
The issue is not so much that no textbooks exist, as it is that the teacher has taught using her materials for years, and wishes to continue using them.

(But if she wants a textbook, I really liked using the various ESL texts by Celce-Murcia).
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Old 01-17-2013, 03:38 AM   #10
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On top of that, I would suggest to the professor that maybe she does want to approach a university press (don't know if your university has one) or another academic press with the materials, even though it's extra work on her plate to make them a little more book-like. Even though there are lots of books on the market, if she can prove a niche, an academic acquisitions editor might be interested.

My good friend is in final edits for a textbook she wrote first as a series of long handouts for the students in her political science methods classes. She wrote the handouts to save them coming to her office hours with the same questions, and then turned the handouts into a text that other teachers could use. She's gotten a lot of interest from other professors who've piloted the text--often, those kinds of "already course-tested" texts are appealing.
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Old 01-17-2013, 06:07 AM   #11
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On top of that, I would suggest to the professor that maybe she does want to approach a university press (don't know if your university has one) or another academic press with the materials, even though it's extra work on her plate to make them a little more book-like. Even though there are lots of books on the market, if she can prove a niche, an academic acquisitions editor might be interested.
That's a really good point, and I absolutely agree.
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Old 01-17-2013, 08:35 AM   #12
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We don't have a printing service or press at my school (at least not one we could use. We're such an underserved program), but I'll mention the printing company to her. For some reason I was thinking those were quite expensive, and when you have to print 40 copies of something up front, it can add up quickly, especially when we have the salaries that we do. Good point in asking about getting a discount, though, and I'll mention the university press idea to her as well.

I think it'd be great if we could sort something out. The students would have a great resource, and the program would save a lot of money on copies. Thanks for the suggestions guys!
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Old 01-17-2013, 09:07 AM   #13
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There's always things like Lulu, too, but really, I'd look local.

She'll probably have to be prepared to keyboard the handouts.

Honestly, if the students have ready/easy access to computers and printers, a .pdf may be a reasonable option.
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Old 01-17-2013, 07:00 PM   #14
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In my experience a printing company is vastly cheaper than Lulu, and that is before you factor in shipping. Unless it has changed recently their international shipping is from a company that gouges for profits.
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Old 01-17-2013, 10:25 PM   #15
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If there was a way to do it, it would be fantastic if she could print them, and then the students could pay for them. I was just thinking that it would be a good way to solve the problem of having to make copies for each student every class. Would just using a normal printing service be better/cost effective? Obviously these aren't things she wants available to the public or needs to ISBN or anything of that nature. Just a way to have bound copies made for each students at a low cost.
Everything old is new again. That's what William Strunk did with his class notes for Freshman Comp at Cornell: The Elements of Style.
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Old 01-18-2013, 12:14 AM   #16
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There's always things like Lulu, too, but really, I'd look local.

She'll probably have to be prepared to keyboard the handouts.

Honestly, if the students have ready/easy access to computers and printers, a .pdf may be a reasonable option.
Not in the classroom. They all have phones, but we have a tough enough time keeping them off those in class without giving them a reason to be using them. We're in a building with overhead projectors and blackboards. We just got colored chalk, which is a big upgrade (yay), if that gives you any indication.

I also think a lot of it is worksheet based stuff that the students have to write in, so I'm not sure how well a computer based thing would work. I think it'd be hard to get the forms set up to fill in the blanks and what not.

I'll look into what some local companies can offer and see what we can manage. It might even be that something at the school can help out somehow. I know we have materials to bind things. I had to hand-bind a ton of books for an accreditation process a few years back. They might have something that does it easier now.
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Old 01-18-2013, 12:39 AM   #17
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I also think a lot of it is worksheet based stuff that the students have to write in, so I'm not sure how well a computer based thing would work. I think it'd be hard to get the forms set up to fill in the blanks and what not.
A .pdf can be printed by the students, or a local copyshop.

Comb bindings are very cheap, and work well for workbook sorts of things.
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Old 01-18-2013, 12:59 AM   #18
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I was thinking more for in class activities. I don't know exactly how she uses them all, though.

Comb bindings are what we used when I had to bind for the accreditation thing. Took forever, but professional looking and effective. Also something the school might be able to provide.
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Old 01-18-2013, 03:55 PM   #19
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We don't have a printing service or press at my school (at least not one we could use. We're such an underserved program), but I'll mention the printing company to her. For some reason I was thinking those were quite expensive, and when you have to print 40 copies of something up front, it can add up quickly, especially when we have the salaries that we do. Good point in asking about getting a discount, though, and I'll mention the university press idea to her as well.
If it's for class and is necessary/crucial to teaching then it shouldn't be something you have to pay for yourselves. Why not talk to the administration about adding the cost of a text book to the course fees for each pupil? I mean, each pupil paying and extra 10 is much better than one teacher paying 400 each year.

Your school may also have a budget for course materials and texts that you can use that's separate from the resources budget - you might want to speak to your bursar about it too.

And if they would agree to funding it then you can place larger orders and save even more money.
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