Sesame Workshop works closely with a handful of publishers on various multimedia book formats, but has not yet been threatened by the digital download business. "It's tricky because our readers are preschoolers, but I do think in the next few years somebody will develop a device that allows us to explore this area," says Scott Chambers, vice president of publishing, home video, and audio, Sesame Workshop, a sentiment he expressed at a panel discussion at the Bologna Children's Book Fair in late March. Additionally, Sesame currently is exploring Internet technologies to help leverage its publishing content.
But selling actual books online has been a slow-build area for Penguin, for one. "On the younger end, parents want to know what's inside a book before they purchase it, and on the slightly older (preteen) end, kids aren't able to make online purchases without access to a credit card," says Whiteman. "That said, the first problem largely has been solved by the 'search-inside-the-book' feature."
Marvel's Maglione, on the other hand, notes, "Baby Boomers were the last real reading generation, and it's been declining ever since. I submit the challenge is to re-engage children with the unique enjoyment of sitting down with a great book."
Of course, finding shelf space for books at retail remains an issue. "Along with the consolidation of retailers, we now have to contend with the rise of in-house publishing by major retailers," explains Emily Brenner, vice president and publishing director of HarperFestival/HarperKids. In addition, says Publications International Ltd. Senior Vice President of Marketing Chris Campbell, traditional book retailers are feeling increased competition from players such as Wal-Mart, Target, and Sam's Club, which are much more aggressive on price and product distribution.
One category that continues to draw new readers to bookstore shelves is manga, which VIZ Media's Coppola attributes to its role as a bridge between visual entertainment and reading.
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