Publishing Insights From the Nielsen Children’s Book Summit

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At Nielsen’s annual Children’s Book Summit in New York City on October 27, industry experts and executives discussed important issues in children’s publishing, particularly relating to digital content.

The opening keynote was presented by Kristen McLean, Nielsen Book’s director of new business development, who spoke about consumer trends and forecasts in the children’s publishing market.

Among her key insights:

  • The U.S. book market is stable, with little change year over year. There was a slight overall decline in 2015 due to a decrease in e-book sales; however, print books grew three percent (see graph below).
  • The children’s book market shows more growth than the overall U.S. book market: While the overall book market has grown 33 percent since 2004, the children’s book market has grown 52 percent growth since 2004, with a four percent compound annual growth rate.
  • Children’s book sales are still going strong in 2016: Through the week ending October 16 (Week 41), print children’s books are up five percent over 2015. In particular, juvenile fiction and juvenile nonfiction have shown growth.
  • All children’s book formats have seen growth since 2013–2014, with the exception of mass market paperbacks. The most rapidly growing formats are board books and boxed sets.
  • Childhood classics are making a return to the top-selling ISBN lists.
  • The top juvenile fiction categories ranked by unit sales include humorous stories, fantasy and magic, and media tie-ins. Robots is the fastest growing sub-category in juvenile fiction, followed by time travel and activity books.
  • Comics and graphic novels is a growing sub-category not only in both juvenile fiction and nonfiction, but also in the adult market. In children’s, the category has seen steady and notable growth over the past two years, increasing from 2.8 million units in 2013–2014 to 5.1 million units in 2015–2016.
  • Religion is another category that is growing in both children’s fiction and nonfiction year over year.
  • In nonfiction, activity books are the most popular category. Sub-category growth is being seen in computers and in comics and graphic novels.
  • Children’s nonfiction is being purchased through a variety of outlets. Purchases from independent bookstores grew from two percent in 2012 to 11 percent in 2015.
  • Nielsen identified a need to empower “kid creators”: Children’s content is more persuasive and engaging when it is actually created by children or produced to mimic child-created content.
  • Understanding children’s use of various devices is critical to delivering timely and relevant content (see second graph below).

Earlier this year, at the ABC Children’s Institute, McLean shared also data and trends in the children’s book market in the featured talk “The U.S. Children’s Book Market: Where We Are and Where We’re Going.”