Bucking trends in print book publishing and sales, ebooks for children from birth through ten years old are a hot market. Print books for juveniles are also on the increase with double-digit growth. Nielsen Book business development officer Kristen McLean told Ellen Harvey at bookbusinessmag.com, “Children’s books are holding up the U. S. book market right now.”
An interesting side note is that adults reportedly buy 80 percent of young adult books for themselves. Carolyn Kellogg writes in The Los Angeles Times (December 31, 2015) that coloring books for the adult market are “the most age-defying driver of print book sales.”
Juvenile Book Market Potential
Publishers agree that the juvenile book market is changing the publishing industry the fastest and is among the most lucrative segments. It is powered, in part, by parents purchasing interactive and personalized ebooks for their children. Many are linked to popular TV shows, movies, and games. These sell for much higher prices with higher profit margins than other types of juvenile books, but that does not seem to dissuade parents.
At the same time, the sluggish overall economy has negatively affected children and young adult ebook sales. They are more costly than paperback (up 9.5 percent in 2015 over 2014) and board books (up 12.6 percent). Overall, ebook sales for this market were down in 2015, but so were more expensive hardback cover book sales (down 7.7 percent), according to one source.
Another reason for flattening sales is the stagnating or, at best, incremental technological developments in ebook products, according to Albert Albanese, senior writer and features editor for Publishers Weekly. He wants to see more books written for computers and mobile devices; publishers need to take risks experimenting more with new technologies, rather than adapting and re-creating print books for screens.
The legacy print business still dominates publishing, leaving a business development gap in the children’s and young adult market that innovative authors, illustrators, and IT experts can fill.
Authors, Illustrators, and IT: a Winning Combo
The books of children’s books authors soared when they joined forces with really great illustrators. So, too, they can build sales by hooking up with IT innovators to produce content written for screens. Together they can capture the added value in e-publication with smart audio and video features.
There are financial risks for the publishers pushing forward with technological innovations, but the rewards are great too. A four-year-old already knows how to operate his father’s I-phone, the TV remote control, and is anxious to learn to read. Children and young adults are technologically astute and curious, and several authors and ebook publishers are beginning to capitalize on these qualities. So must publishers.