Trends in the ELT materials market (?)

I don’t know what the trends are. No facts here. Just my opinion. I’m interested – do you agree/disagree/take offence/think these are pointlessly general statements/etc? Please comment!

  1. Key markets for most publishers seem to be China, Mexico, Turkey and Brazil.
  2. In most cases, print still rules…
  3. … apart from in China, where everyone is obsessed with adapting coursebooks for a ‘virtual market’.
  4. Primary publishers don’t seem to fully trust a CLIL-based approach (to be highly profitable, I mean). They like to cater for more traditional (grammar/typical vocab) approaches in their range too, and the success of CLIL-based resources hinges on teacher training, which may mean more investment for publishers.

Wait. Just thinking more about that last point…


  1. The range of expected add-ons to the coursebook package (i.e. workbooks, teacher books, etc) continues to grow, especially in the primary market.
  2. (similar point) Primary publishers (and big institutions) are trying to get parents interacting more with their resources and engaging more with their child’s learning. Some primary coursebook add-ons reflect this…(?)
  3. Not all big publishers/teaching institutions feel that securing permission to use popular copyrighted videos is cost effective, or ‘worth it’ (e.g. as a selling point, pedagogical benefit, etc).
  4. No mention of ‘21st Century Skills’ = no book.
  5. Teen coursebooks seem to focus a bit more on young people as agents of change (I mean… more than when I started using teen coursebooks 10 years ago, so not a lot to go on there!). The go-to topic for this is environmental activism. (note: you have to say that ‘agents of change’ bit in The A-Team or The Lone Ranger style, or in Redd Pepper’s voice)
  6. Project-based learning and general exam skills are the remit for upper-teen courses. Grammar-based coursebooks are a dud for older teens. However, publishers still seem to think that no scope is comprehensive without shoehorning some grammar into the mix, which then tends to take over (somehow).

Hang on a second. That one is just a rant… scrap that!

  1. Everyone seems to love word clouds in vocabulary stages these days. You’ll be able to date a coursebook from this (general) era based on the inclusion of word clouds.
  2. Comprehension ‘tasks’ (e.g. things like notetaking and summarising) are taking the place of comprehension questions… a bit.
  3. There’s a lot more pronunciation ‘in’ coursebooks than it seems, it’s just rarely in the student-facing resources. The fact that it’s mostly supps does not reflect how much it’s valued, it’s more of a practical thing.
  4. Royalties for writers don’t sound that common or that great. A well-negotiated fixed fee sounds like a winner.

Would you add anything else?


Feature image: Gerd Altmann, pixabay.

Categories: General, materials writing

Tags: , , , , , ,

8 replies

  1. 1) yes and no. China’s market is still big but hard to get in and much fragmented. The trustworthy companies you can work with safely are just a few. Brazil is down, market shrinking and economic downturn. Turkey’s market looks healthy but a bit overcrowded. Mexico offers a huge market but very price-sensitive.
    2) indeed
    3) not necessarily, they are just playing both sides
    4) CLIL is often offered as a side dish by many publishers, though some CLIL activities are now quite standard in most course books for primary school (esp grades 4 to 6)
    5) I would say it is growing more in the secondary school market than in the primary one, but you are very right here
    6) true for non adoptional materials (readers, activity books, games) and also some KG resources
    7) true
    8) some publishers are already including 21st century skills activities in their course books or even in their readers (we are among the few!) but I can’t see any specific books dedicated to them
    9) indeed, well noticed
    10) true, especially in Asia. In Europe teachers nowadays focus more on communication and less on grammar. I think this has to do with the fact that Asian students have to go through lots more of examinations
    11) really? I should look more closely then
    12) true. Maybe it’s better like that, helps them in building useful skills
    13) true for asian markets
    14) true to a certain extent, it depends much on the publisher’s resources. with OUP I’d rather choose a royalty based agreement

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cheers for the response on all points! It’s great to get insight from an actual publisher too. As a writer/teacher is nice to know that some of what I’m noticing in a practical sense does seem true. I feel like I’m a bit late in mentioning the CLlL stuff, and yeah I’ve noticed it prominently at upper-Primary levels. We are using a task-led CLIL product here in Thailand, in wondering whether /predicting the next iteration will end up with more grammar focus in it. Will wait and see!
      The 21st c skills bit – I don’t mean separate books, just that these skills seem to be mentioned in the marketing for loads of books these days as an integrated part of the offer.

      While you’re there: some of those graded readers that you very generously sent me a while back are currently doing the rounds in my teen class. Will get some feedback for you from learner perspective if I can!

      Thanks again for the comment 🙂


  2. Lots of interesting observations.
    I don’t work on YL/CLIL, so can’t comment on lots of your points. Otherwise, I’d say a lot of the points very much depend on whether you’re talking about general, global coursebooks or other types of materials.
    1 – I’ve worked on materials specifically for the Italian, Spanish and Polish markets in the past year, so I think market-specific materials are still a thing.
    8 – sigh … yes!
    11 – ha ha – I use lots in presentations, but don’t think I’ve ever put them into materials … although maybe I will now you’ve put the idea in my head …
    13 – yes, I’ve written more pron activities in the past couple of years than in the past 20 as a materials writer – hooray!
    14 – I haven’t been offered a royalty by a big publisher for several years … but that may be the kinds of things I write.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cheers for the response! Sorry, late reply!
      11 – yeah, think I might be off the mark with this one.
      13 – Interesting! Why do you think this is? I mean, I’m really pleased about it too, but can you pinpoint anything that led to publishers opting for more pronunciation resources? Maybe its just feedback from learners, like market research… Don’t know.
      14 – I’m fairly new to writing in general, but never been offered a royalty. Saw some interesting comments about royalties on a fb group for writers recently – don’t seem worth it for most publications

      Liked by 1 person

  3. A very interesting post, though it’s all new for me. I’ve just started the NILE module in materials development so will no doubt be visiting your blog a lot now.
    I really hope you are right about number 11, and that it is more than just lip-service, i.e. one article about Greta Thunberg because she’s cool and famous rather than embedding the values of sustainability throughout each unit or theme in the course book.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Gateway B1+ (Macmillan) deals with the topic well I think, worth a look. Know what you mean though, a lot of resources I’ve seen are more box ticking. Hey, just seen your course advertised! I’ll share it now 🙂


  4. Great list, and I agree with most of your points (the ones I know enough about to have an opinion on, that is!). I write CLIL materials for CLIL classes – i.e. not for the language class. I’d suggest that maybe EFL course books don’t seem to be doing the CLIL thing because where there is interest in this type of learning, the kids are already doing it in their CLIL classes. In my experience the ‘CLIL sections’ of EFL course books are more like mini projects on random topics. *Disclaimer* that is just my opinion, feel free to disagree!


  5. Thank you very much! I’ll check out Gateway!


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