Children’s Authors: Don’t Go All Ebook …. Yet

If you’re a writer of children’s books, then listen up! There’s a really interesting article in the Sunday NY Times about the collision course between ebooks and children’s books. In short, when parents want to read a book to (or with) their child, they absolutely refuse to pull out a Kindle or Nook.

This is no great surprise, but a lot of parents really want to deal with actual, old school books instead of electronic versions when it comes to teaching their kids to read. That’s even the case even with parents who themselves are die-hard downloaders of books onto Kindles, iPads, laptops and phones. They just want their kids to experience turning physical pages — like they did as children — and learn about shapes, letters, colors and animals in big, colorful pictures.

It’s also an intimacy thing. There’s nothing like cuddling up with your child and a book; a tablet just isn’t the same.

The numbers only back up the point this article is making. While electronic books now make up about 25% of adult book sales, they barely hit 5% of children’s book sales. In fact, most parents won’t even buy a children’s book unless they can flip through it themselves and see the pictures. That explains why more children’s books are bought at actual bookstores (instead of on Amazon).

Here are quotes from some parents in the article about their preference for actual books:

“It’s intimacy, the intimacy of reading and touching the world. It’s the wonderment of her reaching for a page with me,”
–Leslie Van Every

“I know I’m a Luddite on this, but there’s something very personal about a book and not one of one thousand files on an iPad, something that’s connected and emotional, something I grew up with and that I want them to grow up with. … I feel that learning with books is as important a rite of passage as learning to eat with utensils and being potty-trained.”
— Ari Wallach

“When you read a book, a proper kid’s book, it engages all the senses. It’s teaching them to turn the page properly. You get the smell of paper, the touch.”
–Alexandra Tyler

“If he [his 5-year-old] is going to pick up the iPad, he’s not going to read, he’s going to want to play a game. So reading concentration goes out the window.”
–Matthew Thomson

The lesson for authors in all this? If you write children’s books, don’t jump too far on the e-book bandwagon. Sure, you can offer e-books, but don’t make your book electronic at the expense of print. While ebooks may be all the norm in the future, today’s parents really want their children’s books on paper. And who can blame them?