New Highlights VP Jack W. Perry Discusses Future Of Digital Children’s Books

Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.

Jack W. Perry

Jack W. Perry

Recently, Highlights Press welcomed Jack W. Perry as the new Vice President of Print and eBook Sales. As children’s publishing hovers at the crossroads between print and digital, Perry sees this as an exciting moment. Digital offers new opportunities not only with ebooks and apps but with electronic marketing and new sales models.

New sales models

“With digital, there are a lot of fascinating ways to reach the audience,” says Perry. Publishers must be flexible enough to offer a range of sales models “from the traditional one-book model to unlimited use via subscriptions,” he says. “As long as the numbers work, we want to play in all arenas.”

Digital allows for new bundling opportunities. “We are experimenting with different lengths of the books and creating bundles,” says Perry, “Basically, what the market demands, we want to deliver.” Simply offering a lot of books isn’t enough. “Curation is important,” he says. Publishers have to “approach this in a strategic way.”

New marketing models

Digital has fundamentally changed the way to market titles. The internet can instantly “get the word out about a great review” says Perry. Social media gives authors and illustrators an enormous platform to promote themselves. “We expect to utilize all of these tools to give our titles the best shot in the market.”

Though books for younger readers are still print-driven, Perry appreciates that “digital has opened up a lot of new ways to reach children.” Text-driven titles, notably Young Adult (YA) books, have been successful as ebooks. Still, in the children’s market today, the balance of print books to ebooks tilts heavily toward print. “Children’s books have lagged in conversion,” says Perry, “but exciting things are still to come.”

Tablets in schools

One factor that’s making the young reader market more exciting is the adoption of tablets in education. Perry is looking to ensure that his books are accessible to schools iPads and Kindles. “We are open to working with many distributors who service that market,” he says, “That seems to be where the battle is right now – who will own the pipeline to the tablets in the schools?”

The overall experience is print plus digital

Today, many customers read both print and ebooks. People consume titles in whichever format that fits for them at the time: the same child may read board books, paperbacks, apps on a tablet and digital book on a school or library PC. There are no clear boundaries between formats in this dynamic, developing children’s digital book market. “We have to think of an ebook as part of any overall experience,” says Perry.

“I am excited to see how the disruption evolves,” said Perry, “It is a great time to be in children’s books.”

Highlights Press includes the following imprints:

  • Highlights Press, the branded publishing imprint of Highlights for Children, publishes activity books and innovative novelty formats including: the original Hidden Pictures, Puzzlemania, Amazing Mazes, crafts, jokes, and seasonal titles.
  • Boyds Mills Press publishes picture books, chapter books, novels, and nonfiction.
  • Calkins Creek publishes both nonfiction and historical fiction about American history
  • WordSong publishes poetry, with books that range from the silly to the serious and are infused with the wordplay and imagery.

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