Well, the QTalk book printing costs have been increasing - and now we find they are really going up - by a significant amount. We cannot pass along the entire increase to our customers. Some of the school districts have already set their budgets for the 2012-2013 academic year, and they will not have enough money allocated to purchase a Student Book for each student if we were to try to pass along the entire increase. So we've been trying to look at the big picture. I hope you will help us -- we need to understand whether it makes sense to keep offering these printed Student Books, when schools are looking for ways to get more bang for their bucks across every category of spending.
As it happens, QTalk really does not make any profit from our books; after the costs of development, printing, inventory management, and shipping are taken into account, the books require a great many resources, and we have so many different books, that even with overall high volume, there is no single edition that we sell in high enough volumes to make the bestseller lists in the newspapers (that other dying breed of publication).
We can always keep improving and enhancing a subscription type of product, and we do keep tweaking and adding to our Digital Language System (DLS) products for Smart Board, and we keep adding more and more activities for our Online Games subscribers. But sadly, once the book has been shipped to a school and assigned to a student, it's difficult to make updates. Even when we post errata lists - the inevitable typos, inconsistencies and other gremlins that somehow manage to sneak between the covers of our books from time to time, despite the proofreaders' most attentive efforts - we wonder whether any student is every informed of the corrections which are made to the next edition.
Now, this is interesting because there is a huge buzz going on, about eBooks. Can we imagine a future where reading is really done entirely with these electronic gadgets we must recharge, avoid dropping or spilling onto, and generally take better care of, than most students can be expected to take care of anything, even their most meaningful toys or favorite items of clothing. Perhaps there is a market for a "Tough eBook" similar to those wonderful (and expensive) Toshiba "tough laptops' that can be dropped, stepped on, spilled on, and still work properly. But even these "tough books" could be lost or left at home, or left on the bus, or left behind in a classroom... and then what? Will the school or the parents need to keep buying replacements?
And can it really be, that the experience of leafing through the pages of a cheerful, colorfully illustrated and thoughtfully presented Student workbook, is quickly to become a thing of the past? Has the printed Student Workbook gone into the dustbin of history, along with other charming artifacts of the pre-digital classroom, such as the handwritten essay, or the teacher's olive-green attendance book (why were the covers always that shade of green)?
How rapidly will schools transition fully to eBooks? What are you seeing?
And what should QTalk Publishing do about the increased cost of printing our beautiful, colorful student books? For the short term, we need to swallow the bitter pill and raise prices to avoid losing money on our books, but even so we shall not be passing along the full increased cost of printing, so our profits on the books will be even slimmer. But as a component of our curriculum, and as a support to the QTalk method of language instruction, the Student Book, intended as a consumable, is an important and highly effective tool.
Should every student have their own Student Book? We'd like very much for this to be the case. But in fact, we know many schools are working with budgets that simply are not sufficient, so they stretch and squeeze wherever they can, and indeed are often getting by using the QTalk language instruction tools without the Student Books, and we at QTalk are not so inflexible as to insist that these amazingly wonderful, and increasingly costly books be purchased by every one of our school customers.