e-picture books

The State of Picture Book Ebooks


Dear Editor…

Thanks for your help with all our questions! I am a little wary of e-publication, since I have been going the other route. I would like to know the success or state of e-books vs traditional publishing. Is it a viable option for picture book authors? I’d really like to know how well e-books, and apps are doing, and whether or not e-books are gaining popularity and sales.

Thank you!

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