By Quentin Fottrell
Many parents remain reluctant to buy their children e-books, preferring the prospect of a few crinkled pages to that of a cracked iPad screen. But that is rapidly changing.
Though picture books didn’t translate well to the black-and-white screens of the original e-readers, beloved titles like “The Cat in the Hat” now have their own iPad apps. Indeed, publishing revenue in the juvenile e-book category, which tracks books for children up to 18 years of age, jumped 233% to $64 million in the first quarter of 2012. “It’s the fastest growing category in trade,” says Andi Sporkin, a spokeswoman for the Association of American Publishers.
Nearly 50% of U.K. parents say giving their kids access to e-readers or tablets encourages them to read, according to a survey carried out by Ipsos Mori market research and The Reading Agency, a U.K.-based literacy charity. What’s more, 42% of parents polled said they’d also bought their children a children’s e-reader or else let them read their own iPad or Kindle. “Our research also shows that tablets are used by all members of the family, including children,” says Jo Henry, director of Providence, New Jersey-based Bowker Market Research.
Tech-savvy younger children are adapting to e-books even faster than their older siblings, e-publishers say. Children aged 7 to 12 think of e-books like toys and find them “fun and cool,” while teenagers are more interested in print versions, according to a recent survey of 1,000 tweens and 1,000 teenagers by Bowker Market Research. That age group has never known a world without e-books, says A.J. McDonald, a spokesman for e-publisher Lulu. “They are raised in an environment with computers, phones, and iPads,” he says.
Publishers are churning out thousands of kids e-books that cost less than print versions. The average price of a children’s e-book is $4.57 versus $10.22 for a hardback and $8.29 for a paperback, according to Bowker Market Research. Collectively, Apple, Barnes and Noble and Amazon have thousands of children’s e-books. Among them are interactive reboots of old classics: An app version of Thomas Wharton’s “Hildegard Sings” ($3.99) “Pop Out! The Tale of Peter Rabbit,” ($4.99) an e-book version of the Beatrix Potter series.
Experts say younger children like the graphics and color of e-readers, as well as the option to hear the book read aloud even when a parent is unavailable. Children’s books were not conducive to e-readers, but the release of the Kindle Fire and Nook Color last year helped change that, says Mark Coker, founder of e-book distributor Smashwords.com. “An interactive device is more exciting to children than a block of pulped and pressed paper,” he says. “That’s why children’s e-books are suddenly becoming popular.”
- Harry Potter’s Latest Magic Trick: Lower E-Book Prices
- Why Facebook Wants To Friend Your Tween
- Why Sex Sells Better on E-Books