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- author Jackie French

Thursday 10 February 2011

Guest Post: Daniel Errico

KBR is delighted to welcome US author and e-book aficionado Daniel Errico to talk to us about the virtual e-book storm raging around children's literature. It's exciting times.

Children's literature is officially taking the digital world by storm. It may have been the slowest to join the party but e-readers and smart phones are recognizing that handheld devices and children's literature are an obvious marriage.

The affect that e-books, mobile apps, and online media are having on children's literature is becoming more evident by the day.

Ebooks only account for a smaller percentage of the overall industry, however, they're increasing at an incredible rate. As of June, they were up 204.2% year-to-date, and hard-copy children's books were down 16.7%.

The six largest publishers (Hachette Book Group, Harper Collins, MacMillan Publishers Ltd., Penguin Group, Random House, and Simon and Schuster) account for over 60% of the market, meaning independent and smaller publishers have been slowly decreasing and fading from relevance. But this is also occurring at a time when connections to an audience are being found in new ways.

The amazon Kindle's e-book sales have taken over their hardcover book sales by a margin of roughly 1.5:1 (and this includes hardcover books not available in e-book form). Hardcover books, of course, have a large connection with children's books, but you could argue that the Kindle does not mesh well with a picture book style. It targets an older audience (and one that can read to themselves).

The iPad however, is a colorful, user-friendly playground for children. The prospect of having a quiet child play with an iPad during a long drive has parents practically drooling over them. 31% of children age 6-12 have interest in buying an iPad, making it the top gift. So even though the iPad's sales have done surprisingly little to hurt the Kindle and Amazon, its affect on the children's market is large, getting larger, and more relevant to this discussion.

For authors and publishers, getting an iPad app created and approved is more difficult than manufacturing an iPhone or iTouch app, but infinitely less difficult than printing a book. So stories available on the web, and stories available as mobile apps possess the ability to threaten the children's publishing industry in a very real way, with success dictated only by merit.

For ebooks, authors can now self-publish ebooks on Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and Sony eReader, among others. The serious market for kids is forcing hardware changes in ereaders as well. The Fable will be released next year by Isabella Products, and already has five publishers on board including Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

It is the first ever rugged ereader designed only for kids. It's designed to have interactive capabilities including coloring, and a sturdy frame that can withstand the most rambunctious toddlers. This is just another example of how the children's market has its own set of rules and unique trends.

Another development worth noting is a hybrid between self and traditional publishing.

An example of this model would be Greenleaf Book Group. The need for this model stems from publishers no longer willing or able to take the inherent risk in signing unproven or faltering authors.

These hybrid publishers (for lack of a better term) defer some costs of marketing and printing to the author, but still only accept a small number of projects to produce and distribute. They hedge their investment of time and money through the author.

Greenleaf has found success in the form of New York Times best selling authors. Some publishers have been utilizing a similar method (unofficially) by requiring authors to guarantee personally buying a certain number of copies of their book for direct sales.

Combine all these factors and it's really an unprecedented time for authors and readers like. After a relatively stagnant era of children's literature, things are changing faster than they ever have before. Will the next big children's author be discovered by HarperCollins, or gain success through tech-savvy kids? There's no way to tell, but chances are pretty soon, there'll be an app for that.

Daniel Errico is a children's author and creator of freechildrenstories.com, a site dedicated to making original stories available at no cost to children around the world. Daniel is passionate about children's literature. His works are published through various sites, collections, mobile apps and top-selling ebooks. Currently, he is involved in several multimedia collaborations for children's literature, as well as the traditional publication of his story The Journey of the Noble Gnarble.

www.freechildrenstories.com is visited regularly by thousands of parents, teachers and children around the globe. The site is always accepting submissions from children's authors to be selected by the review team for publication at no cost.