Authoring and publishing

See Book publications and E-learning publications

In 1986, while I was working at New College Durham, I suggested to a colleague that we should write a textbook for one of the IT courses on which we taught. He agreed and, after getting the go-ahead from a business education publisher (also a colleague who had started a small publishing house), we got the material together. I wrote my chapters using a BBC Model B computer which used a cassette tape recorder for backing storage. It was a laborious task, but eventually I managed it. In those days it was necessary to produce a ‘camera-ready copy’ which was then used in the printing process. This required interminable proof-reading and corrections, very error-prone because a secretary had first to copy our material into a DTP program before it could be properly formatted. So to any mistakes that were in our original material, she added a few of her own. Anyway, we eventually managed to get got the book into a publishable state.

The book was duly published and, after a few teething problems, began to sell quite well. In fact we sold about 5,000  copies annually for a few years, possibly because ours was the only textbook at the time for that particular course.

My writing partner and I co-authored a few more books for our publisher and received 20% royalties, which was a pretty good deal. However, over the years that we had been writing, we had begun to do more and more of the publishing work ourselves, including the artwork, cover design and production of the camera-ready copy. So, the obvious consequence was to start our own publishing house since it would not require too much more additional work and we had a very good idea about what was involved. I had taken voluntary redundancy about a year earlier and my writing partner also left teaching to concentrate on our new business.

Brancepeth Computer Publishers flourished for several years, our books selling well enough to give us a decent living, but sales began to drop as major publishers started to compete in our publishing niche. We moved towards online educational material after seeing that the quality of much of the current online material was not great. With our extensive IT background we knew that we could do a better job and also undercut the main competition.  We called the new company ICT Education Online and for a few years we produced a range of high-quality materials, most of it targeted specifically at national IT qualifications. It did quite well but after a while so much free material started to appear on the Internet that the demand for our relatively cheap but still not free material began to dwindle.

We knew that we could still write material for new courses and update our existing books but decided in 2005 that it was time wind up our two companies and dissolve our partnership so that we could pursue our individual interests.

Since that time I began to devote myself to website development and continue to do so. (see “Internet work”).