Materials writing news and views, July 2019

Sorry, been busy!

Here’s some latest news with a Pearson-heavy start!


Pearson to phase out print textbooks

The big news announced yesterday (BBC article here).

In the pipeline…

Pearson are working on the higher levels (Int+) of Startup. Promo vid:

Expect some puns in the Level 8 book. They’ve signed off on my decision to name a librarian ‘Paige Turner’.


One of the authors of the Primary coursebook Now I Know (Pearson again!) mentioned it’s release on LinkedIn  (link to product here). Looks like the main selling point is use of authentic BBC videos (CBBC). Also includes exam practice, 21st Century skills, etc etc. I’ve just looked at the samples and realised that I did some copy editing of Student Book 1. Who knew? Not me. I recognised it from this awesome image of a ‘potato hippo’. That must have been a random artwork brief to write…

Behind the scenes: Illustration

Speaking of artwork, Garnet Education’s latest blog post is a behind the scenes look at developing illustrations for coursebooks. Interesting insight, see here. Nice infographic in there.

Training to be a writer

Atena Juszko has again come up with a good listicle recently, this time on training opportunities for writers. She shared this free ebook on writing ELT materials. Lots of established writers contributed to the resource. John Hughes’ section, ‘Who will I work with?’, is a nice summary of the people involved in a project. Rachael Roberts’ section on things that can go wrong is so true, and a great read when preparing for a new project. Shifting deadlines and publishers changing the brief halfway through a project are both ‘aaaaaaaargh!’ moments for me, how about you?

Update on Peachey Publications

So, here it goes… In my last update I wrote that Peachey Publications were offering a subscription service to help you get your ELT materials published. I suggested the price was a bit steep given that our previous ebook sales were low. Nik got in touch with me and my co-author, Rich, and said he could work with what we’d created to improve the content, design, etc of the book. What’s more, he offered to do it for free to showcase what he provides.

Our ebook ’30 Role plays for TEFL’ was released two weeks ago. It looks great visually, has been enhanced through additional content and digital resources, and… it sells. And sells WELL. Massive shout out to Nik Peachey and full endorsement, because he’s done a great job. Now I know more about the service Nik provides, I’d say the subscription fee is a bargain.


IATEFL MaWSIG have been really pushing the blog posts recently. They’ve posted four since my last update. Take a look here. There is also an upcoming webinar which you can register for here (if you read this today!!!).

ELT Publishing Professionals

The ELTPP database is two months old. I’ve joined it recently and have already tweeted that the new site looks good. There are already some jobs being advertised on the site, so a good start.

(Selected) Jobs

  • ELT Writer – Brooksmead Associates Ltd, London (click here)
  • Senior Development Editor, CUP (click here)
  • Two recent job posts on York Press Freelancers Facebook group (click here)
  • Integra are looking for an ELT Editor with experience of project managing IWB components. Get in touch with them if interested.

Useful reads…

This post from the TESOL Association blog is a good read:

Teacher-made materials design: 6 Flaws and Fixes by Gabriela Kleckova

If you only read one ELT materials-related thing this month…

Glossary of key environmental terms for the ELT classroom.

A list of eco-vocabulary for use in ELT lessons and materials is being compiled by Clyde Fowle for ELT Footprint. This movement started after a climate emergency on behalf of ELT was called at the recent Innovate ELT conference.

Categories: General, materials writing

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4 replies

  1. Great summary yet again! And thank you for the mention.
    PS. I hate moving deadlines too. Actually, moving start dates are probably worse…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Speaking of illustration, the one of the woman being showered with money on p. 47 of the e-book Atena Juszko shared was drawn and coloured by me … (really)

    But the part I wanted to comment on was the Pearson story – it’s just … didn’t they do this already? I seem to remember them attempting to take Liverpool at IATEFL in 2013 by storm, as it were, by having a completely bookless stand and only having iPads and stuff? And if I remember rightly, didn’t it fall through the following year as was obvious when all the print books came back?

    OK, so that was five years ago – but I can see some other serious issues with this proposal:

    1) Trying to force the consumer to do something that benefits you rather than them is a very high risk strategy – I wouldn’t personally want to have my head on the block for that one.

    2) The BBC article says that “its e-textbooks … are updated continually”. That’s not necessarily an advantage, especially if students are citing one edition and the tutor is working from another (although it depends on the nature and scale of the updates, I guess). I mean one reason why students shouldn’t use Wikipedia as a source is because as it’s continually updated it makes it unreliable to cite from (that’s not the only reason, but it is *a* reason).

    3) Academic textbook publishers, including Pearson, are already facing a great deal of resistance for the exorbitant prices they often charge. For instance, the paperback version of the 7th edition of Saunders, Lewis, and Thornhill’s ‘Research Methods for Business Students’ goes for about £46.28, whereas the Kindle version goes for £43.97.

    Now I’m not saying that a good quality Kindle version doesn’t take a lot of work in terms of design, layout, formatting, adding in hyperlinks in the Index and so on – all of which must cost money – but no consumer in their right mind, surely, thinks that the cost of that conversion comes anywhere near to warranting a mere £2.31 (barely 5%) reduction in the cover price, do they? Especially given that the Kindle version requires no printing, packing, distribution, wholesaler discounts, retailer discounts and so on?

    It just seems like an incentive to acquire the book by other means, foul rather than fair. And while publishers may try to argue that they have to increase the costs based on the fact that they know many copies will be bootlegged, they surely have to understand that the piracy could be effectively addressed by actually making the legitimate copies of the book more affordable?

    4) It just so happens that the same morning that I saw this post of yours I also saw the following post on the LSE’s blog: “As schools become suffused with ed-tech, is the only response to constant surveillance the right to remain silent?” (

    I’m not a Luddite or anything like that, but having had the digital revolution in ELT publishing promised over and over and over again for the best part of 15 years now and still not having really seen it takeover in the ways predicted … I’ll hedge my bets for the time being at least.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Nice illustration!
      I agree. My first thoughts on that article were a) it will take a while for that decision to have an impact, b) I wonder if they will stick by that decision if other publishers don’t follow suit, c) who actually benefits? I was thinking more about certain teaching contexts, low-tech, where textbooks may be a more practical and available resource.
      I don’t buy any arguments for the high costs of print books. Some of them, especially methodology books, are ridiculously expensive. The upside of me avoiding buying these books during my MA was that I realised how much research is now available as open access, how much of certain books are available as previews online, etc. I guess as a result I’m happy the prices were high as it forced me to up my research skills, rely less on summary/lit reviews and seek out more primary sources.
      It’s interesting what you say about the IATEFL 2013 conference. Bold move, as with now, and could be history repeating.
      Just out of interest while we are talking ‘digital revolution’… what do you think are the least valuable tech-related resources for the classroom? I’ll be honest and, despite having written some of them, I find the digital supps for coursebooks of very little value. In 12 years I’ve only met one teacher who makes use of them beyond answer checking and video links, and more often than not the students are set work from them for homework which they never do, or that doesn’t stretch/interest them. Activities are often formulaic, bit dull and predictable. I feel like they are there just because every other book seems to have them. Then again, these publishers must do a lot of market research and must have established that students/teachers value these resources…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. “Nice illustration!”

    Why, thank you!

    “a) it will take a while for that decision to have an impact, b) I wonder if they will stick by that decision if other publishers don’t follow suit, c) who actually benefits?”

    Well, the BBC article claimed that nearly 50% of their sales are already digital – but that doesn’t tell you anything about how that percentage applies to their market segments and what the percentage is in the ELT markets in particular (which themselves are split up geographically so e.g. maybe Sweden and Singapore are early adopters of digital books, but Turkey and Thailand less so?)

    The big four ELT publishers spend a lot of time copying each other’s moves so I suspect that the question might be whether or not the move creates a huge boost for smaller publishers, local publishers, and the pirates.

    “Cui bono?” … well, yes. You know something occurs to me about the rash of online piracy – you know, all those Facebook groups that teachers can join to download hundreds of scanned copies of books – who actually uses them and how?

    I’ve a sneaking suspicion that the majority of people who download them either barely use them or do not use them at all – when consumption is free, it tends not to be valued so much so I suspect a lot of people download it thinking “I *might* need that!” download it, and then don’t look at it again for another 6 months (or even forget about it never to look again).

    The kind of people who use the scans to print off cheap versions of the original are the kind of people who’ve been around (and doing that) since at least the 1970s.

    I guess what the pirates get out of it is a harvest of teacher and student data they can use in some nefarious way or other.

    “I don’t buy any arguments for the high costs of print books.”

    To be fair, I am a little more sympathetic here – while yes, they do cost an eye-watering amount to purchase individually, they are normally – at least this is my understanding – bought in bulk quantities, e.g. 60 class set copies, which are then used over and again by the school.

    I suppose one thing that’s often overlooked (by me if no one else) is the book is never just the book – by which I mean all the ‘free’ online placement and progress tests, additional worksheets, and all that jazz must bump up costs somewhere.

    But, yes, generally I agree with you – it is a bit of a puzzle and you do wonder whether or not it’s the pirates that create the high prices or the high prices that create the pirates …

    “It’s interesting what you say about the IATEFL 2013 conference. Bold move, as with now, and could be history repeating.”

    Definitely. I get the impression they are still trying to dominate a market that they are struggling to understand the nature of.

    Their solution seems to be to go for something like a Netflix subscription service – that, I think, would be the real future of digital publishing.

    But none of the big four ELT publishers will go for it, I don’t think, because such a service would need to be compiled of the books teachers want most which would mean necessarily a range of publications from different publishing houses.

    It would allow a fifth new competitor to enter the scene that would overtake the current four, while using their books (or “content” as we’re supposed to say nowadays).

    That, I think, is where the industry should be headed. Only it isn’t.

    “Just out of interest while we are talking ‘digital revolution’… what do you think are the least valuable tech-related resources for the classroom?”

    I think you’re probably right and the majority of publishers I know would probably agree with you.

    A very senior publishing manager for one of the University Presses once told me that she knew the CD-Roms that used to come as standard with books for a while in the early 2000s were a total waste of time – her exact comment was “For all I know, they’re being used as coasters”. Not surprisingly, they were consequently “often formulaic, [a] bit dull and predictable” just as you say because they were being done on the cheap.

    As she went on to tell me, it was more for marketing than teaching – not having such additional stuff apparently harms sales even though ironically hardly anybody exploits it.

    Actually, maybe you could do a conference workshop on how to integrate such apparently dull and formulaic stuff into classroom practice just as people once did with dictionaries and dictation and other “Cinderella” components?

    Sorry for a long reply … By the way, I completely forgot to mention how much I liked Paige Turner … maybe she could have a colleague in the second edition called Lena Meerbuck?


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