Digital Publishing: Distributor Relationships in ELT

Digital Publishing: Distributor Relationships in ELT

In the run up to the IATEFL conference this week, held in Liverpool, I though it would be relevant to write a blog about the state of the English Language Teaching market for digital textbooks and resources. 

Digital content aggregators like and iBooks have transformed the way readers access material with one-stop content sites. While this business model works for some publishers who focus on the general consumer market, the shift to aggregation sites can have negative consequences for publishers who serve the education sector, particularly those in the English Language Teaching (ELT) market. The right cloud publishing platform can be the ideal solution, offering an alternative to mass aggregation sites that aren’t designed to accommodate the special publisher-distributor relationships found in the ELT market.

ELT publishing is a global business that serves teachers and students in traditional education settings, home study and virtually every other learning model. From the publishers’ point of view, ELT content distribution channels in North America are relatively well established. But in global ELT markets, the content distribution channels are more fluid. Local distributors have relationships with educators in their regions, but publishers are often unfamiliar with the local distribution chain and rely on distributors to drive print and digital textbook sales and stay in touch with changing educator and student needs.

How a Cloud Publishing Platform Can Support Distribution Chains

The emergence of digital content aggregation sites can disrupt the distribution chain, imposing a middleman – the digital content aggregator – between ELT publishers and educators and eliminating the input of distributors. This disrupts the flow of local distributor expertise and customer analytics to publishers and makes it more difficult for educators to access customized materials that suit their unique needs. New cloud publishing capabilities can provide a solution by preserving distribution channels.

With a cloud publishing platform, educators can remain a key influencer in the ELT publishing process. A cloud publishing platform that enables users to view ELT content across all device types and platforms helps educators by delivering a consistent user experience and eliminating the need to train teachers and students to use new devices.

The right cloud-based publishing platform can also allow publishers and distributors to maintain relationships and control, preserving the distributor’s role as content administrator by enabling distributors to sell content via access codes for both digital and physical textbooks. A robust cloud publishing solution can open new revenue streams for distributors by enabling the sale of support services.

How a Cloud Publishing Platform Can Enhance the User Experience

ELT publishers looking to maintain global distribution channels should seek a cloud publishing platform that enables students to rent or purchase material and store downloaded titles to an app on the devices they already use rather than acquiring new devices and learning new systems. An ideal solution would allow students to select an app for their device when they purchase materials from the publisher’s online bookstore.

With this type of solution, publishers and distributors can decide to market time-limited access to educational materials, provide students and ELT educators with new title notifications and offer free content along with digital and print textbooks. These capabilities enhance publisher and distributor control, but they also give students and educators more choices.

As publishers evaluate cloud publishing solutions, they should also look for platforms that enable them to convert content to digital form quickly and easily and add rich media and interactive elements, including video. Advanced cloud publishing capabilities should also include tools to allow students and teachers to capture page clippings to view text and images, add notes, search content by keywords and view pages on any size screen. Bookmark features that work across multiple device types are also essential, as is an intuitive user interface that eliminates the need for users to learn new features for mobile devices, laptops or desktops.

Better Analytics for Better ELT

In addition to an intuitive user experience, publishers and distributors should also look for a cloud publishing platform that delivers reader analytics. The ability to gain insights such as time spent on each page, video viewing statistics, reader feedback surveys, etc., is important because it helps publishers and distributors understand how readers use the information and can help with material development and sales initiatives.

The mass digital content aggregation model may work in some publishing sectors, but it puts important relationships at risk in markets like ELT. Publishers and distributors who want to maintain a greater level of control, develop interactive content that appeals to today’s learners and gain access to valuable analytics should consider cloud publishing alternatives. With the right cloud publishing platform, ELT publishers and distributors can maintain their collaborative relationship – and serve educators and students better.

About the Author

Richard Stephenson is CEO at YUDU, a pioneering, cloud-based publishing support service provider that enables professional publishers, brand owners, marketers and retailers to publish interactive, rich media content. Customers use the YUDU cloud publishing platform to publish magazines, catalogues, brochures and books in multiple digital formats optimized for viewing online as well as via mobile and tablet devices. The YUDU cloud publishing platform was launched in 2007 and has since published over half a million publications for some of the largest brands and publishing houses in the world. Learn more at