I write for 8-12 year-olds, so I was sceptical about the value of ebooks (please read the whole post before throwning the rotten tomatoes of technophobia at me!). I awaited my first post-Kindle royalty statement with interest. Would I be the next Amanda Hocking? Well. No. In April, my statement told me that paper copies outsold ebook copies by a pretty substantial ratio (8000:1 in case you're interested).
|Gratuitous picture of my ebook|
So, is there any point in bothering to make ebooks for younger readers available? There's a huge product surge taking place right now, not just in publisher produced ebooks, but self-published new works, or authors giving their out-of-print books a new lease of life through the technology. Katherine Roberts has a particularly useful series of posts on how she went about doing just that.
Is this a bandwagon I should be on? Or should I stay on the fence and wave as it goes past like a northern Jenny Agutter?
I took a look at Amazon's Top 100 Paid children's ebooks last Sunday.
It was - almost - wall to wall vampire novels. My suspicion is that even though these books might be classed as children's books, they are in fact being downloaded and read by young adults, or, you know, adult adults. However, that 'almost' is interesting. There were some books in the Top 100 that really were kids books, though probably downloaded by adults as a result of seeing a film or play-tie in (Rosemary Sutcliff and Michael Morpurgo). But once you'd got past those, there were one or two books that made me pause. Lady in the Tower by our own Marie-Louise Jensen was there. Lily Alone by Jacqueline Wilson. The H.I.V.E. series. Were these books being bought by adults? It seemed unlikely to me. So, are some children buying ebooks?
Last year, I had a conversation with my agent about the value of children's ebooks. Her feeling was that it's only a matter of time before the market takes off. There were a few barriers she saw to their success. First, the ereaders. Who would give an iPad to a nine year old? Well, the iPad2 is now out. Anyone who upgrades might as well give their redundant iPad1 to their children. I certainly saw it happen with smart phones.
Gift-giving was another barrier, she suggested. Lots of books for 8-12s are bought by adults as gifts. You can't wrap an ebook. Will Amazon gift vouchers really do as a birthday present?
Then there's actually making the purchase. Once, my 10-year-old brother bought a camper-van on ebay using my dad's credit card. That was a dark day in the Caldecott household. And a valuable lesson in why my dad should keep his credit card hidden in the back of his wardrobe (yes, Dad, we know where it is...) But a PayPal system for children would overcome that difficulty. Are the children who have overcome these barriers buying H.I.V.E? Probably.
Many school libraries are moving away from printed books to ebooks and ereaders. Children who are in kindergarten now might well start High School with a tablet computer in the bag with no need for a new pencil case on the first day of term.
Right now, I feel that my royalty statement is right. Kids ebooks haven't come of age. Not yet. But it's only a matter of time. I best buy my ticket for that bandwagon!
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