And while the Potter books may have begun simply enough, the stir they've created is far more complicated than plot, paper and printing presses allow. Other products have since been added to the mix: conversations with its author, journals and stationery, coloring books, pop-up books and bookmarks. Even the publisher's Web site features a discussion chamber where Internet-savvy kids can log on and chat. Similarly, the Lumos font used to create the now-famous Potter moniker also has a URL. So it seems, it pays to be more than one-dimensional in a fickle market.
According to Cynthia Burlingham, author of Picturing Childhood, "Movable parts appeared in books as early as the sixteenth century, but not until the mid-eighteenth century were movable books conceived as entertainment for children or adults. The toy trade also became increasingly important as the children's market grew." Today, says Burlingham, the proof is in the proliferation of souped-up children's books. But she clarifies, "The continued vitality of children's publishing, despite competition from a host of newer media, suggests that the illustrated storybook remains unparalleled."
Despite the profitable results that multi-media initiatives have earned in the children's' publishing market, not all professionals agree that high-tech is always better than traditional print.
"The liveliest CD-ROM story 'book' doesn't have the cuddle factor of a picture book shared at bedtime," says Harold Underdown, editor at ipicturebooks (www.ipicturebooks.com). "On-demand publishing, in which single titles of books are printed when needed, also seems to me to have a natural niche. Academic and specialty publishers can use it to sell copies of their books in bookstores that can't otherwise carry them. This technology could also enable publishers to keep a novel or black-and-white nonfiction title technically 'in print' indefinitely, even if not widely available."
But in keeping with new media's provocation, Scholastic simultaneously released a flagship title for its new e-publishing initiative, A Time for Courage: The Suffragette Diary of Kathleen Bowen. In fact, the publisher plans to release additional titles in its new e-book program from new Teen Imprint, PUSH, as well as reference titles for the home, school and library markets. Similar plans are also in place for itles from the "Dear America" series and other children's picture books.