My simple way to figure out picture book trends is to visit Barnes & Noble and check out what it's featuring. This fall, if you're not Maurice Sendak, Dr. Seuss, Eric Carle, a Caldecott winner, or an established bestseller, it seems like you're out of luck.
This is consistent with last fall's depressing New York Times article, "Picture Books No Longer a Staple with Children." The article reported that perennial bestsellers like Sendak and Seuss continue to sell well, but parents are buying fewer picture books. Why? Because they are pushing preschoolers to read chapter books in a misguided effort to help them become more "advanced" readers. Librarians and others quickly pointed out that picture books are critical for helping children develop literacy. (See Huffington Post article summarizing librarians' views).
My guess is that traditional hardback picture books will also suffer from the increasing popularity of color readers such as the Kindle Fire, which will soon join the Nook color, iPad, and other color ereaders. Not only do these readers provide the same books at paperback prices, but they also offer exciting and interactive picture book apps.
As a children's book writer and illustrator who hopes to finish and publish my picture books, the changing landscape of publishing is at once depressing and heartening. Depressing, because the likelihood of obtaining a traditional picture book contract is very slim, but heartening, because the options for publishing electronically have increased dramatically.
What do you think? Do you need to have a traditional picture book to read to your child as you cuddle together in bed, or will an iPad or ereader do as well?
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