Over the past few years the rate at which educational books are being written (mostly by connected educators), has increased rapidly. Thanks to such independent publishers as Mark Barnes and the Hack Learning Series, Dave Burgess Consulting, and EdTechTeam Press, the process of getting a book to market is now that much easier. Many of these books I have read, and here are two from each publisher I can easily recommend (and I’m still making my way through some of the others):
Despite the quality of this work, it seems like this influx of books has precipitated some eye rolling and sarcastic comments to the effect of, “Everyone is writing a book!” And to be honest, at a point, I too was skeptical.
Nevertheless, after some reflection and time (and some personal growth, maybe)…I have come to believe this growth in popularity of independent publishing is a change for the better as it is indicative of what we should want for our students; everyone can have a voice, everyone has an opportunity to make their work public, and everyone has an opportunity to make a difference. (In fact, I think it might be a bit hypocritical to say, “Students should be publishing!” followed by something like, “I can’t stand all these education books!”)
What’s the Problem?
Last week I was talking with George Couros, and he was quick to say the problem lies with the consumer; I agree.
We are all consumers, and it is up to us to determine the extent to which a book impacts our practices and attitudes…Here are some questions to think about (some of which were inspired by the conversation with George):
If an author writes a “good” book that is marketed poorly, and it therefore does not sell well, who is at fault?
If an author writes a “bad” book that is marketed well, and it is therefore a hit, who is at fault?
If a “bad” book somehow becomes popular, to what extent is the book’s (and author’s) success really impacting your professional life and/or the students with whom you work?
Do you purchase and read books based on their social media buzz, based on what your students need, a combination of the two, or something else?
Do you honestly think anyone would intentionally write and publish a “bad” book?
In the End
In short, on a personal level I have come to realize that (1) all of these books simply provide me with more options from which to choose, (2) I still have complete control over which books I decide to purchase, read, use, and promote, and (3) I can now celebrate the successes of several of my friends and colleagues who have written these independently published books. And, at the same time I have decided to “throw my hat in the ring” by writing Hacking Project Based Learning with Erin Murphy, which comes out this winter…As a disclaimer, I should add that I am also a fan of more traditional publishers.
So, as consumers, let’s continue to be critical of content that may influence our actions. But, let’s also make sure to take advantage of the same types of shifts to which we should want our students exposed.
Here are few additional thoughts since initially publishing this post:
Although I have only mentioned independent publishers, the same rules can also apply to some more traditional publishers, such as Corwin, who now seem to be going out of their way to work with a wider array of educators.
Yes, not “everyone” can obtain a book deal, but the odds are now much higher than ever before. Also, anyone can independently publish their own book and/or have a voice in other ways, such as through a blog.
I honestly wanted to write this post without mentioning (plugging) Hacking Project Based Learning, but given the topic of this post I thought it would have been unethical not to do so.
One final question: Is it the responsibility of publishers to only market high quality content? (as opposed to churning out books, one after the other, to make a buck)
What are your thoughts?