SEACHANGE IN CHILDREN’S BOOKS – Bringing Foreign Rights Home

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Publishing

I have said it before: The future of children’s books is electronic: the iPad and similar eReaders coming soon.

The iPad is large format and full color; perfectly suited for children’s picture books. Eliminated are (expensive, four-color) printing, ocean shipping, customs clearance, answering the telephone, writing up orders, picking/packing/shipping and the managing of all these functions.

Children’s ebooks can be tested on children, parents, and teachers. Then they can be quickly and easily revised.

In the United States, 24% of the population moves each year. Paper books are bulky and heavy. Do parents want to pack them up, move them, and unpack them? An alternative is leasing ebooks. That way, they are always available without taking up physical space. Disney and other publishers have offered their ebooks for lease for some time.

Here is another (ah-ha type) reason for ebooks that will transform the foreign rights industry. It is quick and easy to translate the books into several other languages and to offer the books from a website. No more trips to the book fair in Frankfurt, printing in China with black-plate changes for each language, or collecting royalties from publishers in other countries.

There is no longer any need to sell rights to publishers in other countries and have them translate the text. There is no need to coordinate printing and (black plate) text changes and shipping from China to the various publishers.

Traditionally, publishers sold “foreign rights” to publishers of other languages. These foreign publishers would translate the text, manufacture the books, and (most important) disseminate the books in to their distribution system such as local bookstores. Brick and Mortar bookstores are closing in the U.S.; they can’t compete with online bookstores. The same will happen in other countries, very soon.

Ebooks can be sold online from anywhere. And, they can be purchased at the click of a mouse.

Some book industry people are in denial. They reason the iPad is too expensive to trust to children. They haven’t thought what parents will do with their iPads when they trade up in a year or two.

This translation concept could be used for adult fiction and nonfiction – and it may eventually migrate there. The concept could start with children’s books because they have so little text.

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