One to Watch spotlight: Cornish startup xigxag, making reading relevant for the Netflix generation

By Kelli Fairbrother, co-founder and CEO at xigxag

Here’s a question for anyone with young people in their household: when you turn on your television, do you find that subtitles are always switched on? If so, you’re far from alone: research shows that four out of five young people are watching with subtitles all or part of the time.

At xigxag, the Cornwall-based digital audiobook startup that I founded, we think this insight into consumer behaviour is key to addressing the critical problem of low literacy in this country. Research this year showed that one in four eleven year olds fail to meet the expected reading standard. This will have a lifelong impact in terms of educational outcomes, career aspirations and life satisfaction.

Current solutions aren’t working. A quarter of schools don’t have a library at all, and resources and budgets are stretched. Over 93% of 5-15 year olds have access to a tablet or smartphone, but current digital book solutions still miss the mark: too many of them are just a faithful replica of the printed page.

Our solution is the x-book®, a unique format developed in Cornwall and now available around the world. We take audiobooks and ebooks and index them together in a fully integrated format. Users can read as they listen, look up unfamiliar words, or see the illustrations that would be missing from a conventional audiobook experience. With flexible pay-per-title pricing, it’s the multi-mode experience that a generation raised with Netflix would expect, minus the monthly subscription fee.

We’ve heard feedback from parents, teachers and readers that the x-book® helps comprehension and makes books independently accessible to readers who struggle with traditional reading. Our catalogue of bestselling books can unlock the magic of books for even the most reluctant reader. And it’s not only for young people or the reading-challenged. The x-book® can help everyone enjoy more books: listen or read, it’s the most flexible (and sustainable) way to enjoy your favourite titles.

Founded in Gunnislake, xigxag is a certified B Corp and an Ethical Consumer Best Buy for audiobooks. The xigxag app is available on both Android and iOS and offers thousands of bestselling audiobooks and x-books from leading authors and amazing narrators, all without a subscription. For more information visit us at


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