Bookmarking A Trend

Print is alive and well in the children's books section, with licensed books for the under-12 set accounting for more than a quarter of overall book sales for 2017.
License Global

May 18, 2018

Bookmarking A Trend

For all books sold in the U.S. in 2017, licenses made up 12 percent of sales, reaching 85 million units, and 28 percent of all children's book sales last year, with 63 million units sold*, according to The NPD Group. Licensed books, where the publisher has paid the original intellectual property owner for the right to publish the character or property in book form, feature popular characters from movies, TV, games, toys and lifestyle brands.

As proof that classics continue to appeal to readers in today's connected, digital world, the leading book license in 2017 was also one of the most distinguished: Dr. Seuss. The Walt Disney Company, with its strength in movie franchises and classic characters, was the leading license owner. Penguin Random House, the No. 1 publisher in the U.S., was also the leading publisher of licensed books, according to the new NPD BookScan License Reporting Service, which tracks approximately 4,000 licenses across more than 16 million weekly book sales in the U.S.


licensed book content in 2017 include popular video games like "Five Nights at Freddy's," toys such as Shopkins, well-trafficked YouTube creators including Nerdy Nummies and adult lifestyle brands like Weber Grills.

It used to be that book licensing was confined to popular television and film properties, but now there are all kinds of interesting and creative examples of licensed books from a much wider content universe. Given the ubiquity of popular franchises, and the way content can spread rapidly across platforms, licensing is one of the hottest areas in publishing to watch.

There is no such thing as a predictable pattern when it comes to licensing anymore. Bringing popular licenses from other platforms into books gives license owners a powerful way to extend the world of their brand into an affordable, high value format. Publishers reap the benefits of a built-in–and plugged-in–fan base that can stimulate sales right out of the gate.

We can expect licensed publishing to be one of the higher-growth areas in the book industry for years to come. It's also one to watch carefully, as a bellwether of larger consumer trends.

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