One of the great paradoxes of digital publishing and children’s content is that children and teens were the demographics who were at one point the least likely to consume digital content. Whether over the original concerns from parents of expensive device damage and enhanced ebooks being likened to video games, or the young adults’ own feedback that reading was for paper, devices were for socialization, children’s publishing even now is awfully slow to catch up.
But one company who is making tremendous inroads into the children’s market should come as no surprise. Scholastic, the world’s largest children’s publisher, has been pushing digital reading largely to their school customers as a convenient, money-saving tool that provides access to a wide variety of vetted, curricular content, so it’s a natural progression then that the children who read on computers and devices in school as part of Scholastic’s Storia platform would then carry over that high interest in digital to their home reading.
Judy Newman, President of Book Clubs and e-Commerce at Scholastic, spoke with Good e-Reader at the Frankfurt Book Fair to talk about what digital reading brings to the realm of children’s publishing, and where the company is taking content next.
“We’re finding that it’s very hard to engage seven-year-olds, but when they find content they can engage with, they’re much for successful. The more reluctant readers there’s more entertainment value, and for the more proficient readers there’s much more interest. But for the industry overall, it’s still slow. They’re saying about 5% of children’s is digital. We’re talking to other publishers and it seems pretty consistent that it’s just slow.”
Newman has a theory on why children’s publishing hasn’t taken off on devices. “Just the translation of regular books when you take a book and stick it up in the e-reader format, then who cares? The medium has so much more capability, which of course gamers know and app developers know. Book people just have to figure out almost how to make a different product.”
And Scholastic has done just that. With the launch of their third series to incorporate a print or digital book–an actual stand-alone title within a series, not an enhanced interactive format–that also happens to include an online gaming world that corresponds to the book, readers are taking to the series from both sides of the book: those who love to read and are intrigued by the game aspect, as well as those reluctant readers who get drawn into the books because of their involvement in the online game.
Newman also spoke about ways the Storia app is at work in classrooms, especially as more schools and educators put the Common Core standards into practice in the coming school year. Additionally, she briefly discussed future plans for a Subscription-based licensing of ebooks, as well as the recently launched initiative to license select titles to classrooms on a one-year time frame.