Susan Katz delivers Eliot DeYong Schien Lecture

On Wednesday, April 14th, Susan Katz, the President and Publisher at HarperCollins Children’s Books, delivered the annual Eliot DeYoung Schein Lecture. The title of her talk was “The Changing World of Children’s and Teen Publishing.”

Ms. Katz began her lecture on the children’s book market by stating that it has not yet been affected by the economy; due in part to parents being willing to spend money on children’s books. “One of the last expenditures parents will cut is books for their kids,” Ms. Katz said. “Parents will continue to buy books for their children even when they don’t buy for themselves.” Parents are still buying print editions and the sales of children’s ebooks account for less than 5% of the digital market today.

Ms. Katz also discussed how ‘content is key’. Series books such as Harry Potter, the Twilight series, and The Wimpy Kid, have become billion dollar franchises because of the high quality of the content that was given to their target audience.

Ms. Katz also noted that publishing houses, including HarperCollins, will eventually have to change the way they publish in order to accommodate the consumption habits of their audiences as they age. According to the 2008 Scholastic Friends and Family Reading Report, kids between the ages of 5-8, 30% read books everyday and 8% go online every day. However, between the ages of 9-11, only 22% read books everyday and 34% go online every day. The numbers continue to increase for online readers; by ages 15-17, 58% of teens go online everyday versus only 17% reading books every day. “We have to deliver our content the way our customers want to see it,” said Ms. Katz.

When it comes to purchasing books, children aren’t the ones the spending the money, parents are. “Children love books and love to read but they aren’t the ultimate purchaser,” Ms. Katz said. Statistics show that 95% of moms are online and 45% buy kids’ products online making purchases 36 times a year. Furthermore, 67% of moms say technology has influenced their child’s ability to learn and 69% of parents list education and learning as the reason they let their child go online. Ms. Katz also discussed different electronic delivery methods used for children’s publishing including; Leapster, Disney Digital Books, augmented reality, and astorybeforebed.com, just to name a few.

Lastly, Ms. Katz touched upon the tweens (8-12) and teens markets. She explained how these markets are becoming increasingly fascinated with the internet and how publishers are using sites like Funbrain.com, Inkpop.com, and PulseIt.com to market to this audience. These methods have shown Ms. Katz that kids want to move from introverted experiences to interactive ones. Publishers must be aware of the changes and deliver content how readers want it, when they want it, and on whatever device do they want it on. “The delivery mechanism for fictional content may change, the business model may evolve, but the content will always be king,” Ms. Katz concluded.