Early in 2013, Pearson (along with all major ELT publishers) had an exhibition stand at the IATEFL Conference in Liverpool. The only difference between Pearson and all the others (bar none) was that Pearson had absolutely no books on their stand – and all the other ELT publishers had books.
This was a clear message to the ELT community that, in Pearson’s eyes, the age of the book was over and the age of the tablet was upon us. Sticking with this brave new world of technology, Pearson continued to exhibit NO books at The London Book Fair in April 2013 and again NO books at the huge Frankfurt International Book Fair in October. Again, without exception, all ELT publishers were present, and all with books.
It should be pointed out that Pearson (who no longer call themselves “publishers”) are still publishing books – new editions of their best-selling Cutting Edge series (2013) and also new editions of their hugely successful Speakout, (planned for publication over the next two or three years). Despite this, Pearson “restructured” their UK Sales and Marketing team making three (out of four) representatives redundant together with a Sales Manager or two and their marketing manager. Within six months, replacements for the bulk of these redundancies were recruited!
However, It was a combination of serious and well-argued pressure from Pearson authors as well as specialist ELT booksellers which seems to have already forced a policy U-turn within Pearson. At last week’s BESIG conference in Prague (organised by Pearson’s Polish office) Pearson were both the primary sponsors of the book exhibition as well as having a large stand – filled with books! They have also advised us that at next year’s IATEFL Conference (in Harrogate) the Pearson stand will welcome the return of their books.
There are many tales surrounding both the death of books and the arrival of the tablet. We would love to hear yours but my favourite is of a classroom in Italy where “blended learning” took on a whole new meaning. A row of students had the textbook, the second row all had tablets, and the third row had no material at all. The observer of the lesson noted that the vast majority of the teacher’s time was spent on helping the second row come to grips with technical problems presented by the tablet! Not an awful lot of language teaching or learning going on here.
So can we have a real discussion on how ready teachers are for the tablet? Do you and your institution have the necessary skills, broadband speed, budget and inclination to go wholly or partly digital? Or would you like publishers to cater for your present needs of a book and, perhaps, a CD-Rom? Please like and share this as much as possible so that the views of the ELT Community can be shared with – in alphabetical order – authors, publishers and teachers.
John H Walsh
The Bournemouth English Book Centre Ltd (BEBC)