Published - Monday, January 23, 2017
Why did we decide to produce exercise books for schools and how is it going? This article explores why we started this process and why we believe that schools can really benefit from a well-designed product.
We have had it in our minds for several years that we could design and produce a really high-quality branded exercise books for schools but every time we did a feasibility study for a client the numbers just didn’t stack up.
Recently the question resurfaced and we took it more seriously. Why? Becuase we suddenly saw just how much impact a properly designed book could have improving and supporting outstanding teaching and learning. And we had a school who really, really wanted some. We decided to arrange a series of meetings with one of our long-standing litho print partners, as we knew that they had the experience and willingness to get this off the ground.
But can we get the balance right between our costs and a reasonable sale price to make this sustainable?
Setting the bar high
We wanted to produce an exercise book that helped schools solve real problems. Can the books help staff save time? Can they improve student presentation? Can they help improve standards? We thought that they could and so we worked to create the specification that would deliver. The challenge was to do this at a price that schools could actually afford.
No compromise on size
We felt strongly that our books should be oversized A4. If a teacher or student could stick an A4 insert into it without trimming it then massive amounts of time are saved, while the presentation of the work is improved at the same time. Some books already on the market were already oversized but in reality didn’t allow much extra space around an A4, wasting extra seconds to ensure a good fit. We wanted to increase the overall size of the books to allow a generous margin but the cost to do so (when materials are all sold sized to suit A series books) was too high. Working with our printer we discovered that by rationalising in other areas we could achieve the size that we wanted (220mm x 320mm) without compromising on the quality.
Making it personal
One of the keys to our books is the ability for schools to use every page to maximum effect. Our design team will work with schools to get the most out of every available printed page. For us this meant allowing schools to add completely unique content to every side of the printed covers, not just the outer side. With good design and layout this allows schools to add information that wasn’t previously possible, including assessment criteria, ethos and values, glossaries, and more. It’s more work for us, but we’re committed to delivering books that solve problems so of course, it’s worth it.
Supporting UK industry
Of course, it would be easier to have produced generic books, imported from China, or wherever we could ensure largest profits, but we care about both quality of the end product and supporting the print industry in the UK. We decided that our books would be batch produced right here in the Midlands. We are producing every book the traditional way and using an offset press. By printing in just one colour we can ensure that the quality of the print is as good as possible and don’t need to resort to cheaper, digital overprinting techniques.
Is it working?
We have had some amazing feedback from our first year of book sales. Read a case study here from The Coleshill School. We are encouraged by the feedback from schools that the new books are doing exactly what we hoped they would; students are taking more pride in their work; schools are embracing the ability to drive assessment initiatives; consistency is improving. To hear back that students are doing better work because they love their new books so much is amazing!
The cost of innovation
At the time of writing, even with orders in year one, designing and printing exercise books is costing us money. This is, in part, due to the nature of batch printing books to order. It is also down to the fact that we have taken the decision to aim for slower, more sustainable growth, funded from our own profits rather than on bank borrowing. While this isn’t sustainable for very long we believe that we can give schools a product that actually helps them to improve teaching and learning in the classroom, and if we get that right then we will be very happy indeed! If we can in some small way be a positive influence in the education of the next generation then we will have done what we set out to do. Profit will be the icing on the cake; for now we’ll settle on breaking even!
If you want to be part of improving school exercise books and help us drive the price down then please do get in touch to discuss how your books could help improve standards at your school.
See what schools are saying about our exercise books
Call us on 0845 208 6788 to start discussing the personalised design of your branded exercise books. With your ideas and our creativity we could change the world (well, maybe not but we could definitely give you an awesomely useful book)!