One of the most common topics we seem to be talking to publishers about recently is children's eBooks, formats and the market. As publishers get more comfortable with the day to day elements of eBook publishing – attention does seem to be turning to genres like kids eBooks, which has been underdeveloped to date. During the first four months of 2013, sales of children’s eBooks in the US dropped 44% from the prior year, totalling approximately $59 million for Q1. At the same time, adult eBook sales were up 12%, so at first glance, it doesn’t look good for the children’s market.
However, as the market matures, children’s eBooks are becoming more normalized in the publishing world, not only among publishers, but also among independent authors. While it can be difficult to gain any traction in the children’s print book market without a character tie-in or retailer backing, eBooks are a more level playing field. Many independent authors are writing and illustrating their own books and obtaining good sales rankings right alongside the major players.
This interest in children’s eBooks has been driven in large part by the enhancements that are possible in many of the children’s eBook formats. New devices like the Kindle have opened up new technical possibilities that were previously unavailable. Features like audio narration and animations can now add a lot of flair to a children’s eBook and bring a better sale price.
So, why have we headlined this post “opportunity knocks?” Because a look behind the numbers reveals at least two ways for certain publishers to capitalize on current conditions in the children’s eBook market:
The drop in sales is, of course, compared to the prior year, which was a boom year for children’s eBooks because of one author, Suzanne Collins, who wrote The Hunger Games trilogy. According to Publishers Weekly, in 2012 The Hunger Games sold a whopping 12.7 million eBooks. This year, without a global blockbuster title, it’s natural that sales in the children’s category would drop. The Rick Riordan series continues to do very well, but have we seen a breakout titles this year? So, taking the phenom that is Hunger Games out of the figures and looking more towards the mid and lower end of the market, we see growth.
What is selling this year are fantasy series, similar but not as popular, as The Hunger Games, which had a movie that helped drive sales. In November 2013, the top three children’s eBooks on Amazon.com were:
1) Heroes of Olympus, Book 4, by Rick Riordan,
2) A Grant of Arms, Book 8 in the Sorcerer’s Ring series, by Morgan Rice
3) A Sky of Spells, Book 9 in that same Rice series.
This indicates that demand may still be there, just waiting to be activated by the right products. Also – it seems clear that a series that builds fans over multiple books is one of the most reliable ways of achieving sales. I know from personal experience that my nieces and nephews all love series, because they can trust that the nest title will be of similar quality to the previous title. And as parents, we can be confident that the nest in the series is a safe bet when they are looking for a new read!
So, this is where a publisher with a good backlist of linked titles might do well to start converting them to eBooks and getting them to market. (Feel free to ask us about formats, conversion process, metadata, sales channels and marketing!)
For enterprising publishers that lack a fantasy catalog, or don’t have many linked titles, there’s a different opportunity arising from the popularity of digital tablets, such as the Kindle Fire, the Apple iPad and the Samsung Galaxy. Consider these statistics reported by UK telecoms regulator Ofcom:
--In 2012, about 14% of children between the ages of 5 and 15 used tablets. In 2013 that percentage has climbed to 42%.
--Breaking the age groups down further shows that tablet use is rising among all children, but is especially driven by kids from 8 to 11, where tablet use rose from 13% last year to 44% this year.
--Tablet use among the slightly younger set (ages 5 to 7) also went up significantly, from 11% in 2012 to 39% in 2013.
--A figure that may surprise some people shows that even very young children, ages 3 to 4, are using tablets: about 28% of that group. (Got picture books, anyone?)
So as much as us parents try to limit the amount of screen time the kids get – looks like we are being outsmarted! All these tablets require content. Christmas is coming fast that means it’s time for publishers to look into their backlists for children’s titles that were big sellers in print, especially those that have strong illustrations. Once optimized for tablets, you could have the next kids’ blockbuster on your
Additional Sources Consulted:
--E-book sales are leveling off. Here’s why - http://bit.ly/1bc2YE7 - Washington Post, Neil Irwin, August 8, 2013
--US eBook market grew by 5% in Q1 2013, AAP Reports - http://bit.ly/1bc3zWg - The Digital Reader, July 16, 2013
--e-Reader Adoption in the US grows to 24% - http://bit.ly/1bc3WjG - GoodeReader.com/blog - Oct 19, 2013
--As E-Book Market Evolves, Correlation Between Genre Preference and Device Selection is Revealed, Says New BISG Study http://bit.ly/1hjRDKN - Bowker Market Research, April 5, 2013
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