John Mason started his career in horticulture in 1969, with a diploma at Burnley (Melb); followed by a varied 10 years (nurseryman, landscaper, parks director, writer, teacher, consultant, etc). In 1979 he wrote a correspondence course in horticulture; advertised, and in the first month enrolled 37 students.
He wrote his first newspaper column in 1973, his first book in 1978 and published his first book in 1984.
In those days, computers were largely unheard of, but in 1982, John’s younger brother encouraged him to buy one; and start using it for his fledgling correspondence school. It didn’t take long before the I.T age was being embraced and the rest is history. The school today has grown to employ around 40 staff, with offices in the UK and Australia; and licensing courses to around 20 other colleges, across 7 countries.
Along the way, John has also worked with many book and magazine publishers; building an intimate knowledge of publishing and education on top of his horticultural expertise.
ACS Distance Education has developed over 600 courses to date (180 in horticulture). The study guides and course notes are largely materials developed by John and the staff; but supplementary reading has always been available through the school’s mail order bookshop.
The Emergence of Ebooks
Over the past decade, print media has been in decline. The availability of books has shrunk. It became evident to John that the only way he could guarantee “supplementary” reading materials to support his students; was to publish it himself.
Over the past 3 years, John has built an ebook publishing business alongside his school. In doing so, he is guaranteeing a supply of texts to his students; and developing a whole new revenue source; selling these books direct to the public as well, through both his own online bookshops and a series of distributors.
Do you remember when you could go into a bookshop in any major shopping centre and find over 100 gardening book titles, Today I’m lucky to see 10% of the titles I used to find; and specialist books (eg. A book on Growing Lavender, or Carnations) are extremely difficult to find. The good news is that specialist titles are getting published as ebooks, even if they are increasingly scarce as printed publications.
A lot of people are still getting used to the idea of ebooks; but there are plenty of others who have converted. There is no doubt that younger generations prefer to read something on a screen, than something printed. We all need to face up to the fact that these younger people are the customers of the future.
Ebooks have some distinct advantages over print – consider….
- You can carry a whole library of dozens of books on a device like an ipad. You can walk around a garden or plant nursery and refer to photos and descriptions of the plants you see. This would be impossible with a pile of heavy printed books.
- Retailers can sell ebooks online as downloads or on CD through shopw (Unlike printed books, a CD doesn't take up a lot of shelf space; nor does it get shop soiled as readily