The State of Picture Book Ebooks


Dear Lisa…

Resist being a Nervous Nellie during this publishing revolution. View e-publication not as a usurper but as an additional tool in our publishing belt. One picture book sales VP put it to me this way: “Look, we’ve been given another format—that’s a good thing.” Overall, ebook sales are still rising, but in recent months that rise has slowed. Specific “children’s books” sales reports lump picture books in with novels like The Hunger Games, so specific numbers are hard to come by, but few would argue that digital will become the dominant format for picture books anytime soon—the major reason being that too much of the unique reading experience is lost in the transition from bound book to screen. (I mourn trim size distinctions: a bold 10×10 book reads differently than an intimate 8×10, a distinction that’s neutralized in a one-screen-fits-all reading device.) But some readers want digital picture books, and we should give it to them. Self-published picture book authors who can handle the expense and distribution should sell both hard copies and digital. Book-specific apps aren’t worth your money or effort yet. Easily $10,000 a pop, picture book apps are for bestsellers and branded characters—as bonus items, not marketing tools. Apps don’t sell books because, due to discoverability issues, readers must know about an app to look for it, meaning publishers must market the apps with resources better spent directly on the book.

Happy writing!
The Editor



  1. Another wonderful response to my questions! I am unsure if I should go the app route, since this opportunity presented itself to me. I’ll wait. I agree that the experience of cracking open a book, with real paper pages and reading is not the same with e-books. Thank you so much!

    • I haven’t got any direct anecdotal experience for you regarding this self-publishing service, Johana. A quick google search returns some threads and articles comparing its services to other companies’ services. Perhaps readers have something to add.

  2. UPDATE: In January 2013, a full-day conference called “Publishers Launch: Children’s Publishing Goes Digital” will address the “digital opportunities and challenges for children’s publishers as ereading tablets take off.” Conference participants will read an interview with Eric Huang, Penguin UK’s publishing director for media and entertainment, in their conference program, but you can read what Eric has to say about digital picture books at this link:

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