ELT publishing trendspotter

New ways of getting content

– Big publishers have been buying up books from smaller publishers (e.g. a couple from Helbling Languages ending up on CUP and Oxford buying up some business skills books) and even self-published books (I gave a link to an article about this about a month ago- can’t find it at the moment!)

– More bizarrely, I got an email from the Canadian part of a big UK based publisher asking if they could use a lesson plan of mine that is online and it turned out not to be something they commented on in the book but an integral and seamlessly tied in part of the content of the book that was indistinguishable from the other bits from here and there that made up the whole thing. I got a mention at the back (along with the tens of other “authors”) but nowhere does it explain the scrapbook way of putting it together. It’s the training materials for a TEFL course rather than a normally published book (which is also interesting in being written by a big publisher) but still odd

– Needless to say, there is no author on the cover of the book above. This is something I have been expecting more of since the Really Learn 100 Phrasal Verbs books did it, but haven’t especially noticed. That would anyway not be as bad as the Dickensian system of a certain fairly large Greece-based ELT publisher where the books are written by the drones in the back office but get the “English names” of the Greek owners who wrote not one word on the cover every time

– At the same time as ignoring most proposals from authors, publishers are apparently setting up a competition to make us send more: New ELT award calls for aspiring authors (send your proposals by the end of this month!)

Independent publishing

Is it the future? It’s certainly at least as mixed in quality as the big boys. We’ve had some fairly positive reviews on TEFL.net for the board game Phrazzle Me and others, but EFL Geek absolutely refused to write a word on the book that he was sent for review because he thought it had so little worth. MET also reviewed independently published titles for the first time (so send yours off to them too!) but the reviews were mixed at best. As I said above, there’s always the chance nowadays that you publish it yourself and then have the big boys buy it off you (are we turning into Hollywood here?? And are you the next Kevin Smith??)


Is it the future? The publishers big and smaller are certainly hoping so, with Onestopclil expanding at a fairly hefty rate, Richmond coming out with quite a few new Secondary CLIL titles and Cambridge releasing the latest Box, being Primary Curriculum Box (review by me coming in MET magazine soonish)

Other new content

The rush of new preschool titles seems to be over, so the marketing people (trust me, it’s the marketing people who make these decisions nowadays) seem to have decided that ever more specialised ESP titles is the way to go

Online and multimedia

– CUP have been publishing a few CD ROMs for young learners, which almost sounds passé when so many games are available online, but could just as easily be perfectly timed as the online world gets more and more unmanageable (and unsafe for young learners) and more teachers needing support get computers in the classroom. In actual fact, apart from the advantage of having a controlled and limited resource, they don’t actually get much help in using these CD ROMs in class (something which I am hoping CUP will pay me money to fix very soon!) To work out if it’s worth the cash (something you rarely read in TEFL book reviews, I’ve noticed) you can compare my review of these titles when it comes out in the next MET with this article on using the free online British Council games with the same age group.

– Needless to say, there is IWB (interactive whiteboard) software for the major course books coming out almost weekly

– Graded Readers with DVDs seem to be the next big thing. Not one single person in my business classes have ever looked at their Market Leader DVDs or CD ROMs without considerable prompting, but maybe the teens who these are aimed at will

– This has been going on a while, but Onestopenglish has slowly been changing some previously free content to content only available for paid subscribers (e.g. lots of my old stuff)

– Other paid content sites include an exam practice site from OUP (seemingly more expensive than books, despite there being no need to print and distribute paper books) and lots of sites meant to make your course admin (marking tests etc) easier

Smaller publishers

– Delta Publishing continues to produce an astonishing array of great titles. Don’t know how either the publishers or the authors make any cash out of it, so they have my lifetime respect (and gratitude for lifesavers like Knowing Me Knowing You and the Puzzle Time series). If it was me, I would’ve used the money they got from selling Keltic Bookshop to move to Barbados…

– Helbling Languages is also right up there, perhaps spending their bonanza from CUP buying two titles off them on something other than Pina Coladas

Magazines and journals

– Both MET and ETP seem to have more and more series of articles (rather than one off articles) in them. I’m not complaining as I will be writing one seemingly quite long series for MET, but I’m not sure how that adds value for the readers. Are the still quite new owners of both of these magazines (Keyways Publishing) trying to get the editors’ hours down so that they can cut their pay?? The introduction of job ads to ETP seems to suggest that someone is putting some thought into getting money out of them somehow

– There also seem to be more and more ads for MAs in TEFL publications nowadays. Why is it worth the universities putting months of ads in several publications just to get one or two more students on their MA TEFL courses? Could it possibly be because the profit margins on those courses are very juicy indeed??

– Both MET and ELTJ have put their content online, mainly just for paying customers. This comes after the more interesting online experiment of My ETP seems to have died a death


– Pearson bought the Wall Street English conversation with computers schools in China a few months ago. Don’t know how it will impact on the rest of us, but the number of FT and The Economist articles in Pearson Longman Business English textbooks seems to suggest that movements in one part of Pearson will affect the others sooner or later

That’s all I can think of at the moment. Any other trends spotted or comments on the good or evil that is any of the above?

Btw, I once set up a whole blog/ site on ELT publishing with a great name (ELT Pub), a great concept for a picture (a bar across the top with me leaning on one end of it), and a singular lack of enthusiasm from myself. If anyone else fancies taking it over, I’m sure the owner of TEFL.net who is paying to keep the name would very much appreciate some actual content!

Other sources on ELT publishing/ EFL publishing:

My ELT publishing/ getting published page

Simple answers to 10 common questions about Teaching English as a Foreign Language

Welcome to Critical Mass ELT

Constraints and Realities of ELT/ESL Publishing

ELT authors and the money they earn

Designing textbooks for modern languages: the ELT experience

ELT Content: What does the future hold for this market?

Window dressing vs cross dressing in the EFL sub culture by Scott Thornbury

This entry was posted in board games, Cambridge University Press, Critical Mass ELT, Delta Publishing, EFL CD ROMs, EFL geek, ELT Journal, ELT publishing, getting into ELT publishing, Helbling Languages, links, Macmillan, Marshall Cavendish, Materials, modern english teacher magazine, online games, Oxford University Press (OUP), Pearson Longman, Technology, TEFL, TEFL blogs, TEFL e books, TEFL games, TEFL reviews, textbooks, Writing ELT textbooks and materials. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to ELT publishing trendspotter

  1. This is a really outstanding read, Alex, with excellent thoughts. You mentioned elsewhere this wasn’t a popular post, but I think it is just so thorough and thought-provoking that most visitors just don’t know what to add to it. I would go so far as saying it is the best post I’ve seen on your blog.

    I’m going to come back to it and comment later, because I think you’ve opened a very delicious can of worms here.

    ~ J

  2. Hi Alex,

    Great post! I’ll just support some of your conclusions with what Pearson Longman has been tracking.

    *online software is definitely on the up. The three biggest drivers are an increase in the number of students with reliable access to the internet, significant improvements in what software can do, and a re-examination of the role of software in a language curriculum. More specifically, the trend we’re seeing is online software replacing pen-and-paper homework, which allows for easy tracking of student progress, and lets teachers concentrate on face-to-face interaction in the classroom.

    *I think independent publishing will likely stick around, but this seems like just another upswing, rather than a huge trend. Online publishing and independent software seem more likely to be where independent work will go.

    *I won’t speak specifically about Wall Street English, but I will say that we most definitely take advantage of the resources and expertise of our sister companies. FT and the Economist are a perfect example. Since we have access to authentic materials, we definitely use them.

    I love your analysis as always.

  3. Eric Roth says:

    Thank you for this informative primer.

    The level of Business English textbooks continues to increase as the standards for International English rise. The success of using real magazine articles from the Economist also highlights the huge number of ELLs hoping to purse a MBA down the road. I know that in Vietnam I met many ambitious students, managers, and entrepreneurs who dream of learning enough English to pursue a graduate degree related to business. Growth in that educational market seems quite likely – even during the Great Recession.

  4. Sarah Howell says:

    Hi Alex,

    Spot on! Great post!

  5. Alex Case says:

    More ELT publishing news/ gossip:


    Seems Keyways Publishing, who own both ETP and MET magazines, also seems to have been merged yet again

  6. Pingback: TEFL books - UsingEnglish.com ESL Forum

  7. Marcelo says:

    Phrazzle Me is not a book so I can understand why he wouldn’t comment on it…but HE DID!!!
    Little content!
    It’s a great game that SHALL prove it’s worth with or without his comments.

  8. Alex Case says:


    I’m not sure anyone reading will have any idea what you are talking about, and in fact I am having some problems. Might it be better to communicate by email??

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