Parents are buying e-books for their children in growing numbers as experts say a new generation may become more used to reading from an iPad or Kindle screen than from a traditional book.Sales of children’s e-books nearly tripled over the first six months of this year compared with the same period in 2011, figures from the Publishers Association (PA) showed yesterday.
Richard Mollet, chief executive of the PA, said that 2.6 million children’s e-books were sold over the first half of this year, compared to 1 million the previous year.
Publishers and retailers said that advances in technology have meant that digital books for children, including picture books, have taken off in an “explosive” way in recent months.
Experts said that the huge increase in children’s e-book sales could lead to a generation of people growing up reading more from Kindle screens than from real books.
“It is entirely possible that people will be more used to reading from a screen than a page, and I do not think it matters in the least, so long as they are reading,” said Sarah Odedina, managing director of Hot Key Books, a publisher of children’s fiction.
“I think it is marvellous. There was a time when there weren’t any paperbacks,” she said.
Francesca Dow, managing director of children’s books at Penguin, said that the group is seeing a “big jump” in e-book sales for children, many of whom are being given their own Kindles by their parents.
Recent advances in technology to allow “flowable text” where lines of text and pictures adjust to fit the particular reading device used are behind the rise, according to the PA’s Mr Mollet.
“The growth in children’s e-books is really a reflection of the fact that children’s digital books have become more possible in the last 12 months.
“For example it has only been in the last year where the publishing format has allowed for flowable text, and that is one of the reasons why children’s books have taken off in digital recently,” he said.
Nathan Maharaj, director of merchandising for Kobo, an e-reading device that rivals the Kindle, said that the “explosive growth” in children’s e-books is “completely expected”.
Although the ‘children’s’ book category includes teenage fiction such as the Hunger Games and Twilight sagas, Mr Maharaj said that over the last year e-books have “bloomed into full colour” and can now have complex graphical layouts, increasing their appeal to children.
Last year, sales of physical books for children fell by 7 per cent compared to 2010, according to the Publishers Association. However digital sales rose by 390 per cent in 2011 compared to 2010, although they still only account for a small proportion of total sales.
A recent study showed that children aged 10 and under tend to read e-books on laptops rather than handheld devices, however once they turn 11 they embrace e-readers like the Kindle.
Jo Henry, a director of Bowker Market Research, which carried out the study, said: “The e-book market is developing rapidly in all age groups. Children are big consumers of books and it is essential to plot their take up of this format.”
John Styring, CEO of Igloo Books, which publishes children’s e-books, said: “We have been increasingly engrossed in the market as it is clear we are at a point of real change.
“The advent of the iPad, and soon the Kindle Fire, means that there are now digital platforms available that can really deliver the quality and joy of picture books.
“So, whilst children’s publishing has generally been seen as ‘lagging behind’ in the digital stakes, it’s catching up fast as more parents have the technology available them, and publishers feel that the technology is relevant to their offering.”
A second piece of research carried out by Ipsos MORI for charity The Reading Agency found that almost half of all parents think that electronic items such as iPads and Kindles encourage children to read more.
Joan Brady, the Whitbread-prize winning author, said it would be a “problem” if the surge in e-books meant that children never picked up a real book.
“There are a lot of problems with e-books, not least if you’ve got a child and they drop them in the bath.
“There is a certain amount of gravitas to a page that you don’t get on a screen. All the technological things are a huge addition, but it is not going to bury the book,” said Ms Brady.
However she said that e-books will never replace paper books. “My feeling is that this will peak. It has not peaked yet but it will and thin it will then go down,” she said.
Parents and grandparents have been buying e-books for their children or grandchildren to read on their iPads and Kindles has led to a surge in popularity of digital books for children, new figures show.
Shoppers on Amazon.co.uk have raved about children’s e-books.
A review on the website by Dr B. Ashim for the Kindle edition of Clever Little Mouse by Paul Ramage said: “My six and a half year-old daughter read this book on Kindle. She enjoyed it very much and described it as the ‘excitingest’ book she has ever read.”
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