Vying for Attention
Children are pulled in many directions today; at least, their attention is. They are occupied by MP3 players, gaming systems, computers, cell phones, handheld electronic games and other digital technologies. And yes, children still play old-fashioned board games. They also attend school, compete in team sports, and participate in community and extracurricular activities. With all of these outlets occupying children’s time, how are books faring?
With an estimated 40,000 to 60,000 new children’s titles released each year, children’s book publishers are concerned with how their books can compete for young readers’ attention with the thousands of titles already in the market, according to Ron Berry, CEO, Smart Kids Publishing Inc.
These publishers are also being challenged by a trying economy, the closing of bookstores and the increased demand for digital technology. Creativity and innovation seem to be publishers’ saving grace to keep up with these challenges and, more importantly, use them to their advantage.
Facing the Retail Giant
As consumers turn to large retail chains to purchase books, more and more independent bookstores are closing, resulting in a decline in shelf space, according to Michael Norris, senior analyst for Simba Information. “[There is] a growing number of titles being sold in non-bookstore locations such as Target and Wal-Mart, which is creating a volatile situation: Those retailers are quite available (there are more Wal-Marts in the United States than there are Barnes & Noble, Borders and Books-A-Million stores combined) and they can price books lower than anyone,” he explains.
And, according to Berry, more than 70 percent of children’s book purchases are made at these chains. The problem for publishers is that these retail giants only carry 80 to 100 titles on their bookshelves at a given time, making it difficult for publishers to get their titles into the stores, he explains. In addition, “they take [more than] 60 percent of the pie—and to make matters worse, if the book doesn’t sell, they ship the inventory back to you, at your expense,” says Berry. “As a result, publishers are using [the] Internet, direct mail and direct sales to reach consumers. The Internet is the fastest-growing marketing channel in America today—this is where hope lies for the small publisher.”