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Are 8-12-year-olds REALLY reading eBooks?

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Harold, I'd be very curious to know where you've found publishers actively engaging in social/mobile development for middle grade readers. This would make me so happy!  :yeah I've seen progress in YA (Wattpad can't be ignored) and in adult, but none at all in MG. Perhaps this goes back to the excellent point Melissa made about subjectivity because my own personal experience pitching cross-platform, digital first MG has been resoundingly met with the same response, "Can't sell it. Can you make this a traditional MG stand-alone?" I'm not saying there hasn't been any progress/experimentation in the industry (Scholastic comes to mind) but overall, from what I've seen, the industry certainly feels firmly entrenched in the old paradigm for this age group.

Again to Melissa's point about subjectivity. What I wonder is where is the data coming from and who is analyzing it? What questions are being asked? Because the stats that I've seen, again from outside the industry, show incredible growth in both ownership and use of tablets and smartphones, forget by middle schoolers, what's really surprising people is the growth in elementary age students!

The most recent study I've seen comes from Pearson PLC: "The Pearson Student Mobile Device Survey 2014"

The big take-aways:

1. 44% of elementary school students are using smartphones for homework help
2. MG went up from 47% in 2013 to 58% this year (again this isn't even ownership, these are the MGers using their devices for homework--not even for social!)
3. 66% of elementary students use tablets for homework help, up from 52% last year
4. MG tablet use, same as smartphone, 58% (up from 43% last year)

An AudienceSCAN article in July 2014 cited an NDP Group "The Evolution of Play" study that showed ownership of these devices is 58% in households with kids ages 2-12, up from 50% the year before and,

"Most households have electronics such as tablets, and in some cases children not only use these devices, they are the primary owners,” said Juli Lennett, president of the Toys division at The NPD Group. “The role of technology in children’s lives cannot be overlooked, and parents recognize that, while sometimes struggling with it."


Another key stat is that use of smartphones amongst middle schoolers crosses income levels and ethnicity. Almost 1/3 of children from the poorest households use smartphones for homework with nearly 50% Hispanic and 46% African-American using devices for homework. (Verizon study from 2012!)

So for those braving the MG SP frontier like you, mmrempen, I really feel so much of the challenge is discoverability, as I said in my first post. I have little doubt there are kids out there on these devices hungry to be engaged in the digital realm, imho, all we have to do now is build the bridge.

Now ya'll are going to have to tape my mouth shut  :-X because I could talk about this ad nauseam...perhaps I already have.  :grin3
#31 - October 09, 2014, 07:49 AM
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 :exactly:

Rue
#32 - October 09, 2014, 10:01 AM
WIP: ETBs 10687/35000 (30.5%)
WIP: IWWP 12045/35000 (34.4%)

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I've actually decided to create a blog for such topics, I've been so inspired by this thread. I :love5: BBoarders.

Now, if I could only channel Harold's industry smarts...
#33 - October 09, 2014, 11:19 AM
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H., I don't think I said anywhere that print publishers are "actively engaging" in developing content/projects tailored to social/mobile consumption by MG readers. No. I just said they are following what's going on. However, they understand what they do, and what they don't do, and they are sticking to what they do well. It would, frankly, be stupid for them to dive into that area when they don't have the knowledge and skills! What they are likely to do is partner with the companies that DO, or buy them.

But for right now, what's the problem? Print sales have not gone down while ebook sales have gone up in children's/YA. I don't know if you saw today's headline that the next Diary of a Wimpy Kid title has an announced first printing of 5.5 million copies? That's not bad.

And those statistics from Pearson? Keep in mind the context--Pearson is a HUGE textbook publisher and that's an area where the digital drive is full on, with school districts turning away from the expensive textbook programs that used to be a cash cow for educational publishers. They are fully committed to digital and are looking for evidence to support that commitment. That evidence is definitely there in the schools and in what kids do with homework. But how far does that translate to kids wanting to do their leisure time reading on devices? That's the question that trade publishers are still asking.

I know you're frustrated because you get it and you want them to. I think you're going to have to continue to wait. Or find a way to move forward without them!
#34 - October 09, 2014, 05:18 PM
Harold Underdown

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Oh, they absolutely have to partner (publishers with developers), Harold, especially considering how hard it is to lure the kind of talent you'd need to NYC with publishing salaries,  :lol4. There are media companies that are eager to partner with publishing. I'm reminded of Jeff Gomez (transmedia specialist) speaking at the 2012 London Book Fair Digital Minds Conference panel discussion, "Children's Content Leading the Way". He told the story of going to a big publisher with an idea, which would have been a book first with cross-platform elements, but the editors balked...so he sold the idea to Sony. If publishing doesn't start developing this type of content, as Mr. Gomez said to the audience, someone else will.

So I guess that's how I feel about the "for right now, what's the problem?" question, which is a good one. Of course my answer is very subjective, but here's how I look at it.

Because considering how long it takes for a traditional publisher to acquire and develop content, and just how fast things change in the digital space, it's already too late.

Because if your Jeff Kinney or John Green the traditional paradigm is working very well, but I'm not sure we can say the same for mid-list authors.

Because looking for, and relying on, blockbuster titles will inevitably lead to the same type of books being published and no risk taking as Dan Kieran, author, co-founder and CEO of Unbound, so eloquently said here, http://blog.unbound.co.uk/publishing-is-dead/

Because when we talk about print books sales for middle grade, I don't think we're always talking about reluctant readers (Jeff Kinney aside) and I believe short form digital is a way to reach out and expand our audience.

Yes, I believe you are ultimately right, Harold, about the going-it-alone, but I haven't given up yet. Yet.  :drowning: :grin3
#35 - October 14, 2014, 06:37 AM
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It's already too late? I don't know about that. People have been saying that for years, going back to at least when Richard Curtis (the agent) predicted that traditional publishing would be wiped out by ... CD-ROMs. That didn't happen.

I'm also not concerned to hear that a publisher turned down a project that then went to Sony. Turning things down is what publishers do! They turn down much more than they sign up. That's how they stay in business.

I can see that for you, the way publishers are approaching digital is frustrating and looks very short-sighted. You've got a vision and you should pursue it. But publishing is a complicated business, with many markets, not just one, and many different ways of going about things. The big publishers may be missing out, pursuing the next best-seller. But what are the mid-size and small publishers up to? What is going on out in the wild of start-ups? We don't know yet.

The next ten years or so will be interesting.
#36 - October 14, 2014, 04:18 PM
Harold Underdown

The Purple Crayon, a children's book editor's site: http://www.underdown.org/
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Publishers do turn projects down all the time, but Jeff Gomez is one of the biggest names in transmedia. What was so frustrating to him is that the publisher loved the idea and wanted to work with him (Gomez works for James Cameron developing the Avatar franchise, Halo, Mattel, Coca-Cola, etc.), but they could not embrace any alternative formats. This was also the same panel discussion where an audience member complained that companies doing the innovating (like Nosy Crow) were going to take business away from them. :eh2 So while I could not agree more that the doom of publishing has been too easily/often predicted (along with the death of print!), I do think there is a fair point to be made that publishing is notoriously slow to adapt.

Yes, only time will tell...but I really hope we don't have to wait 10 years!  :thankyou This discussion has given me so much to think about and your input is so valued, Harold!
#37 - October 14, 2014, 05:39 PM
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I don't know any 8-12 year olds who use e-readers. I have my 13 yr old daughter addicted to trips to the local book store at least twice a month. There is nothing like an 1800's store front, with creaky wooden floors, chock full of books. So delicious.
#38 - October 14, 2014, 07:02 PM

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In the schools where I work, kids this age using either a computer or an Ipad read books on Tumble Books all the time. Tumble Books is great, too, for the reluctant reader as they have the option of hearing the story read by an amazing reader. 
#39 - October 14, 2014, 08:00 PM

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Sully, may all the 1800's store fronts and creaking floors and shelves full of books be there for our kids forever! We have one near us and I would live there if they'd let me.  :grin3

Dionna, that is really interesting. I don't know that much about Tumble Books. I would love to see some stats on how many school districts are incorporating digital into their curriculum. Probably not many, but someone must be tracking it.
#40 - October 15, 2014, 05:39 AM
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Interesting perspective after Frankfurt Book Fair, http://www.thebookseller.com/futurebook/turn-volume



#41 - October 15, 2014, 07:26 AM
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