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Soft Book Sales as the World Celebrates Reading

To mark the 20th anniversary of Read Across America (or World Book Day in the rest of the world), children around the world dressed up as their favorite publishing-based characters.

The holiday is also known as Dr. Seuss Day in honor of American writer Theodore Seuss Geisel, whose birthday falls on March 2nd. The Roald Dahl Literary Estate launched Roald Dahl’s Imaginormous Challenge across the U.S. The challenge stars Willy Wonka and offers five children the chance to become lucky Golden Ticket winners. Penguin Random House also debuted an added-value version of George’s Marvellous Medicine and a new George’s Marvellous Experiments book in time for World Book Day.

TLL estimates that retail sales of publishing-based properties reached $4.51 billion in 2015 in the U.S./Canada, with $49 million coming straight from traditional books. In contrast to the product category’s laconic growth, worldwide sales of licensed publishing merchandise grew 2.1% in 2015 to reach $8.60 billion in licensed retail sales. Comic books and graphic novels as a product category have enjoyed greater growth (in comparison to books) because of the increasingly interdependent and complementary relationship between comics and movies and TV, especially for top entertainment/character properties.

But publishers are catching up, and are expanding their current licensed offerings across more formats, holidays, and properties. Licensed offerings tend to sell better than those that aren’t, and retailers are dedicating more space to them than ever before.

The celebrations arrived as Barnes & Noble revealed falling Q3 results thanks to a disappointing holiday season. Comparable store sales were down 8.3% (to $70.3 million from $80.3 million last year), and retailer predicts that they will fall another 7% for the fiscal year ending April 30th. B&N is developing new store formats and expanding into categories such as educational toys and games.

Diversity Trending

Scholastic’s biannual report on reading trends reveals that diversity is a hot topic among American kids and their parents. When asked what diversity means to them, 73% of parents say it relates to “people and experiences different than those of my child,” while 68% say “various cultures, customs, or religions,” and 51% say it relates to “differently abled people.”

African-American families are more likely to include people of color in their definitions, at 62%. On the other hand, kids are seeking out stories that portray characters that are “differently-abled” (13%), “culturally or ethnically diverse” (11%) and “who break stereotypes” (11%).

The top 10 books or series that parents are reading aloud to their kids include Goodnight Moon, Dr. Seuss, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and Harry Potter. Kids ages 6–8 say their favorites include series Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Magic Tree House, and Junie B. Jones. Tweens, meanwhile, had similar answers, with Diary of a Wimpy Kid coming in first, followed by Harry Potter and Goosebumps. For kids ages 12–14, all of those titles were joined by the Dork Diaries and Percy Jackson series.


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