Undaunted by technology, young readers have become a hot market for publishers who are making books available digitally.
By Alana Semuels
December 25, 2008
After he’s finished his homework and his chores for the day, 8-year-old Skye Vaughn-Perling likes to read Dr. Seuss. He’s a particular fan of the hijinks that ensue when the elephant Horton hears strange voices emanating from a dust speck in “Horton Hears a Who.”
He doesn’t read from a dog-eared copy of the children’s classic, though. Skye, who lives in Agoura Hills, often reads on his computer, pressing the arrow button when he wants to turn a page. Sometimes the characters move around on the screen like animated cartoons on TV. If he wants, Skye can have the computer read a book to him while he’s curled up in bed.
“It’s a whole new level of exploring the books,” said his mother, Victoria Vaughn-Perling.
Readers and publishers alike are embracing a digital future. Electronic-book sales increased 73% in October compared with the same month last year, according to the Assn. of American Publishers, while sales of adult paperbacks decreased 23% and children’s paperbacks declined 14.8%. Sales of higher-education books, including textbooks, fell 443%.
“There’s a new excitement that e-books will become a viable way for consumers to purchase and read books,” said David Langevin, vice president and director of electronic markets at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Co.
The jump in digital sales is strongly related to the increased popularity of the Amazon Kindle, the Sony Reader and even the iPhone. Once readers have bought the hardware, digital books are much cheaper than hardcovers or even paperbacks. You can get a hardcover of Wally Lamb’s “The Hour I First Believed” for $17.97 on Amazon.com, for example, but it costs only $9.99 on the Kindle. And “100 Words to Make You Sound Smart” is $5.95 in print but only $2.99 in Apple’s App Store.
Digital books could get even cheaper if New York company DailyLit goes through with its plan to place advertising on the e-mails and RSS feeds it sends to subscribers, which contain serialized books. The ads would subsidize the cost of the books.
But the children’s book market is especially ripe for the wonders of the digital world.
Los Angeles Times