In Wednesday’s presentation, “Understanding the Children’s Book Consumer in the Digital Age,” Kelly Gallagher, v-p of Publishing Workflow Solutions, R.R. Bowker, offered some good news for children’s booksellers, While e-books accounted for 24% of books purchased between April 2011 and 2012, e-book sales for kids up to age 12 is considerably smaller, closer to 5%. It is a different story for YA, now at 14%. But based on a succession of surveys of parents of children up to age 12, conducted in October 2010, October 2011, and April 2012, Gallagher predicts continued slow growth for digital books for young children.
The Bowker surveys bore out anecdotal observations that independent bookstores are reliant on browsing: 60% of purchases for children at indie stores are impulse buys. By contrast, 48% of Amazon purchases are planned. As Gallagher pointed out, that means that indies continue to be a place of discovery and can build on that to grow sales. They could also add more higher-priced items based on another set of questions in the survey, indicating that consumers are willing to pay more than they do at indies. The average price point for a purchase at an independent bookstore is $8.80. The figure jumps to $10.30 at Amazon and $11.20 at large chains.
Despite the proliferation of technology in children’s lives—10% of children ages 7–12 have their own computer and an increasing number have iPads, and ereaders—children continue to prefer reading print books, according to Gallagher. Parents, too, still prefer to read to their children from a physical book. On average only 5.6% of the books parents read to kids up to age six are digital.
Among the stores that have increased their children’s presence to capitalize on the opportunities that children’s represent, Gallagher singled out Doylestown Bookshop in Doylestown, Pa.; Golden Notebook in Woodstock, N.Y.; Ukazoo in Towson, Md.; Clinton Book Shop in Clinton, N.J.; and Pages Books & Coffee in Newton, Kans.