Tag Archives: children’s ebooks

Egmont Press thinks of the trees with ethical publishing

I just received a paperback copy of A.A. Milne’s Now We Are Six from the UK as a late sixth birthday present for my daughter. And as well as the great original E.H. Shepard illustrations, I found a round logo from the publisher, Egmont Press, stating that the company “is committed to Ethical Publishing.”

In other publishing contexts, ethical publishing refers to policies on plagiarism, acknowledgement of sources, etc. In Egmont’s case, this is specifically about environmental awareness, workers’ rights, and product safety.

“We always know where the wood in our papers comes from,” states the Egmont material. “It never comes from wood in ancient and precious woodland. It always comes from an identified, researched and legal source, and we use only paper that’s given a positive grading by PREPS (Publishers’ Database for Responsible Environmental Paper Sourcing).” Egmont also claims to have “developed the principles upon which PREPS was instigated including Egmont’s own paper grading system.”

For workers’ rights and standards in its suppliers, Egmont declares, “we still insist that all our suppliers conform to our strict code of conduct.” And for product safety, “we produce only products that are safe for young people – from the very earliest age.”

Egmont has also been involved in advocating better reading education for children, and perhaps this kind of position and ethical stance comes easier to a children’s book publisher. But it’s good to see wherever it arises, and traditional publishers overall might want to take note. Then there might be fewer readers switching to ebooks to drive out ridiculous and unsustainable policies like sale or return and remainder stores, and to save the trees.

The Real Figures Behind Alarmist UK Children’s Reading Reports

The Bookseller has just reported, in the context of its The Bookseller’s Children’s Conference currently taking place in London, some alarming figures on the reading habits – or lack of them – of children in the UK. According to The Bookseller, “‘Understanding the Children’s Book Consumer in the Digital Age’, Nielsen Book’s latest research project, has found a significant fall in the number of children who read or are read to on a weekly basis, with the proportion of occasional and non-readers among children aged under 17 now at 28%, rising from 20% in 2012.” And the Nielsen Book report, based on research conducted in June 2013 through an online questionnaire surveying “hundreds of children across several age brackets,” pins the blame squarely on competition from other devices and forms of entertainment, especially tablets. “Only 20% of children use tablets for reading e-books,” warned Nielsen.

As it happens, the UK Nielsen Books report is confusingly titled the same as an ongoing series of reports from Bowker Market Research, “Understanding the US Children’s Book Consumer in the Digital Age.” As delivered at the Australian Publishers’ Click on Kids Conference in Sydney early in August, and available in full online, the Bowker presentation shows a rather less alarming picture of reading habits – drawn from interviews with 36,000 buyers representing 90,000 book purchases per year in the UK, and with 72,000 buyers representing around 150,000 book purchases per year in the U.S. The Bowker survey also has participation from major publishing houses, including Disney, HarperCollins, Penguin Random House, and Sesame Street.

The Bowker survey’s baseline findings were that the children’s book market is very stable; changes are incremental, not exponential; and that kids are omnivorous media consumers. As of January-February 2013, the survey showed a 12 percent increase in ebook purchase of children’s books, and an 8 percent slide in hardcover purchases, but even though this is the highest share for ebooks since early 2011 at 23 percent overall, it looks like gradual change more than any need for crisis talk. For one thing, the importance placed on print books has remained fairly constant since 2011, and other media, with the single exception of mobile apps, have all declined. And the proportion of parents who prefer their kids to read in print has remained pretty constant too, at almost 70 percent.

I haven’t been able to find the Nielsen Book report online, although it’s flagged in Nielsen Book’s own press release on the topic as available for purchase. But in the circumstances, I’d be inclined to take its headline conclusions with a grain of salt.

UK Booktrust joins with Amazon “to change the culture of reading”

The UK’s Booktrust, a pro-literacy and children’s reading charity in existence since the 1920s, has just announced its first Booktrust Best Book Awards in partnership with Amazon Kindle 2014, which will ” seek to unearth the very best children’s books the UK has to offer, and to honour authors and illustrators who continue Britain’s proud heritage of storytelling.” According to Viv Bird, Chief Executive at Booktrust, the Awards are part of a very ambitious program: “We want to change the culture of reading in this country.”

And what’s driving this agenda? “At the moment, books are facing a battle with the major players of the entertainment industry – games, film, and music,” she continues. “Vying for children’s attention alongside these giants of ‘cool’ is no easy task.”

As it happens, I don’t feel that this has much to do with any problems in literacy and reading levels in the UK currently. Social divisions, government support – or lack of it – and entrenched habits are probably far more to blame for any literacy shortfall than competing media. The Kindle, ereaders, and tablets of all kinds arguably have enough cool in themselves to draw in kids. At least Booktrust acknowledges this to some extent.

“A recent competition run by Booktrust revealed that children chose to read in both physical and digital formats – the split was almost 50/50,” Bird continued. “The great thing about E-reader providers is that they’ve created a further arena for reading to take place – a space that is compatible with the world in which children now live, a world that includes Smartphones, computers in schools, and gaming devices – so – let’s celebrate these options that children now have.”

The Awards also do engage children themselves as readers and deciders. ” The books shortlisted for the inaugural awards will be announced in March 2014, at which point children will be invited to read the books and have their say,” Booktrust’s materials add.

Booktrust itself has been under funding threats in the past, as Chris Meadows noted earlier. Hopefully, this latest development indicates that their longer-term future is more secure.