ELT Publishers might look to the wider world of publishing to think about the motivational aspects of language learning. If 7 year old boys are soaking up the latest David Walliams book, what lessons can be learned? How can those same motivations for reading Walliams be applied to wanting to improve language skills?

Wattpad is a social network and the world’s largest community of readers and writers. More than 40 million people engage with the platform. How can we capture learners in this way? How can we find those with things in common, ( i.e. English language learning) and help them to learn together?

In thinking about what ELT can learn from the wider world of publishing, we have decided to focus primarily on gamification, video and audio, and crowd-funding.


Mobile gaming is now seen to be complimentary to the publishing industry, rather than as a competitor. Publishers used to think they had to compete with games for attention on mobile devices. Now, as Hachette acquires Neon Play, the first of many mobile app acquisitions, it seems clear that books and games can and should be complimenting each other. Games are the fastest growing category in the app market, while e-books are currently in decline. Book publishers have IP and existing brands – merging the two sounds like a sensible move.

ELT publishers have produced a large number of successful games for English language learning. In-house digital teams have worked hard on these, in partnerships with various out-of-house agencies, consequently students globally are reaping the rewards of digital games being used as powerful language learning tools. Would it now make sense to acquire some of the companies who are taking the gaming world by storm? Are digital teams going to save resources by buying-in some of the expertise and code behind some of the existing mind-blowingly-addictive games?

Video and audio

In the wider world of publishing, audiobooks are the fastest growing segment of the digital content market with the overall audio digital download market said to be worth close to £100 million (US$125 million) per year. Ali Muirden has been an audiobook publisher for 16 years and suggests that the “Harry Potter” generation of audio listeners grow up to become regular users and purchasers of audio products. The average age of audio buyers in the USA is 24 – 35 year olds, yet audio used to suffer from the perception that it was only of interest to those over 40.

Compared with the wider world of publishing, ELT publishing must surely be the king of video and audio. Fully interactive CD ROM and DVD ROMS have been on publishing plans since before Jurassic Park was released. We are the pros in this field. However, following a move from disc to the Web, and now from the Web towards mobile, are language learners getting enough from video and audio?

The relationship between vloggers and trade publishing in the run up to Christmas 2016 was fascinating. YouTube superstars the Sidemen emerged in front of the likes of Jamie Oliver and Guy Martin in the battle for the No 1 spot  in the Christmas book charts. This isn’t new, in the run up to Christmas 2015 YouTube stars, Dan & Phil’s The Amazing Book also shot to the top of the charts. Is YouTube being used to the advantage of ELT Publishers in the same way? Could ELT Publishers exploit YouTube more – and could it help teaching and learning more than it currently is?


Trade Publishers in the UK are observing with interest the success of the The Good Immigrant. It was voted as the British public’s favourite book of 2016 at the “Books Are My Bag” Readers Awards. The essay collection examines race and immigration in Britain, and was published after being crowdfunded on the Unbound platform. This method of publishing, allows an author to pitch an idea and if enough readers support it, the book goes ahead. Both publishers and independent writers now use the platform. Could this work for ELT? Is the decision-maker always the budget-holder?  To what extent is this a viable model?

We have seen crowd-funding work in ELT for a series of teacher resources  In this case the teacher would be funding their decision. Nick Peachy’s multi-touch book, Digital Video – A manual for language teachers won a British Council Innovations Award for Teacher Resources in 2016. An impressive achievement for a project initiated on crowd-funding platform, Indiegogo.

On first glance, an unsuccessful crowdfunding campaign may seem devastating. In reality though, it may in fact offer you deep insight into the market you intend reaching, Pledges (or refusals to pledge) might prove to be a useful research tool and a way to shift your strategies. On Kickstarter at the moment, EduCase, offers a complete multi-skilled MOOC which also covers IELTS preparation. The team are seeking pledges from $10 to fund the development – and are looking to raise $16,000 in total. Will learners pay for the privilege of being the first to access the EduCase platform? We wait with bated breath.