ELT coursebook publishing is a multi-million pound industry, yet the whole business of product assessment is haphazard and under-researched. Coursebooks are often seen by potential consumers-teachers, learners and educational purchasers-as market ephemera requiring invidious compromises between commercial and pedagogical demands. Some practical and theoretical reasons for such grassroots discontent are discussed, as are previous textbook studies and qualitative 'checklists'. The state of the informational assistance available to intending purchasers is also examined. Finally, as set of 'common core' qualitative criteria is advanced, whose purpose it would be to make evaluation and selection more systematic and informed.