Second Screens and Customization: Digital Kids Conference at Toy Fair 2014

Article written with reporting from Kimberly Lew and Lorraine Shanley.

Books and toys often present licensing opportunities for the author or brand, but this year’s Toy Fair further proved how closely these industries are linked when it comes to selling to parents and children. This was also the first year that Toy Fair partnered with BEA to cross-promote the conferences to their respective trade attendees, and with more toys popping up in bookshops and special sales opportunities for publishers, this symbiotic relationship is only strengthening.

digitalkidscon2014-logo-final-w17-19-200x87Digital Kids Conference, an Engage Digital event co-located with Toy Fair, on February 18-19 also echoed many of the themes at the Launch Kids/DBW Conference in January. As with Launch Kids, a primary concern in the industry is reaching children in a way that is COPPA compliant while still profitable, as is an emphasis on personalization and customization. Finally, both the toy and publishing industries are grappling with how to keep the physical relevant in an increasingly digital world.

Technology has brought the cost and ease of customizing to a reasonable level for many physical and digital products. 3D printing now makes it easier for smaller companies to come out with digital products that can be made physical, as Alice Taylor of Makie Lab and Antoine Vu of Potatoyz discussed at length. JibJab is another company that has been doing customization for years, starting out with adult customized ecards but now moving into the children’s space with StoryBots, a subscription play world where kids can watch videos, read books, and play games with their own faces projected onto moving avatars.  The journalists on the last panel of the day, Tales from Toy Fair, urged game makers to use 3D to replace missing figures, dice, tiles, etc. When it came to what company  successfully combines tech and physical toys , everyone  still cited Skylanders (and by extension, Disney Infinity) as a good example of toys that kids can hold and form personal relationships with but that also have functionality and purpose within the digital space.

Second screens were also a big topic of conversation throughout the conference, with many panelists seeing a majority of kids owning their own tablets not only as a possibility, but an inevitability. After all, as Michael Cai of Interpret shared, 36% (Android) and 19% (iPad) of kids have their own tablets, and 17% named tablets their favorite gaming device, beating out other consoles like the Xbox 360 and PCs. Given those stats, there was also a lot of talk about apps. In the wrap up panel, Warren Buckleitner of Children’s Technology Review and the Dust or Magic conference, mentioned the iPad and its myriad apps as being his favorite showings from the fair, including the Furby apps. Other panelists liked the newest iteration of Monopoly, MyMonopoly, which combine physical and digitally customized components.  And several people throughout the day mentioned Rainbow Loom, a game that both boys and girls can enjoy that incorporates the physical with digital to allow kids to create their own projects. Read More »

Top 5 Publishing Articles/Blog Posts of the Week 2/10-2/14

number_5_redEvery week, we recommend 5 publishing articles/blog posts that supplement the major news for the week. Whether data or industry commentary, we hope these 5 links will be a simple way to keep you in the know. 

George Packer investigates the evolution of Amazon and its intentions for the book community.

How can dedicated readers find pattern-breaking literature in an algorithm-heavy, recommendation engine world?

The trend of “binge” consumption affects books too, as fans demand earlier publication dates for the next title in a series.

How effective is the comparison of self-published authors’ earnings to traditionally published authors earnings in light of Hugh Howey‘s Author Earnings website?

A new study shows that audiobook listeners’ minds wander while listening, making it harder to engage with the book intellectually.

Top 5 Publishing Articles/Blog Posts of the Week 2/3-2/7

number_5_redEvery week, we recommend 5 publishing articles/blog posts that supplement the major news for the week. Whether data or industry commentary, we hope these 5 links will be a simple way to keep you in the know. 

Why should publishing companies build communities among authors and readers, and what benefits would those communities yield to the publisher?

Will celebrity cameos increase the visibility of book trailers?

In hopes of stabilizing its publishing industry, Slovenia passes fixed book price law.

Could Sony and Kobo’s recent deal be a model for Nook?

TechCrunch tracks shares-per-story for both old and new media outlets.

People Roundup, February 2014


Larry Kirshbaum will join the Waxman Leavell Literary Agency as a Senior Agent starting February 24, the WSJ reported. Scott Waxman says, “He’ll be an independent agent building his own list like every agent does.” Kirshbaum was an agent for his own firm, LJK Literary Management, between 2005 and mid-2011 before becoming President of Amazon Publishing. (His former colleagues at that agency reconstituted as the Einstein Thompson Agency when Kirshbaum left.)

George Coe has been announced as President and CEO of Baker & Taylor following the retirement of Arnie Wight.  He has been President of B&T’s Library and Education division since 2000.

Earlier in January it was announced that Bill Saperstein, Barnes and Noble VP for Digital Products Hardware Engineering “is no longer with the company.”  Jim Hilt VP and GM for Global Ebooks and MD of the international Barnes & Noble unit based in Luxembourg, was leaving as well.  Michael Huseby, former CEO of the Nook division, moved into the top CEO spot left by William Lynch, who has been hired as CEO of Savant Systems, a home-technology automation company.

Tim Bartlett has gone to Macmillan as Executive Editor at St. Martin’s Press. He had been an Editor at Oxford University Press, Random House, and Basic Books. Meanwhile, Macmillan VP, Director of International Sales Judith Sisko will retire after this year’s London Book Fair in April, after more than 22 years with the company. Prior to Macmillan, Sisko worked at Henry Holt, WH Smith and Simon & Schuster.

Namrata Tripathi will join Dial for Young Readers as Editorial Director, reporting to Lauri Hornik, helping to oversee the acquisition and development of Dial’s list in addition to editing her own projects. She was previously Executive Editor at Atheneum.

Nicole Melander has joined Houghton Mifflin Harcourt as SVP, Digital Strategy, reporting to CEO Linda Zecher. Melander who was previously Chief Technology Officer at Achieving the Dream, will work closely with the company’s content, marketing, alliances, and technology.

Alexis Gargagliano has been named Executive Editor at Atavist Books. She was formerly Senior Editor at Scribner, and she will specialize in acquiring literary fiction and nonfiction manuscripts for her list.

Michelle Komie will join Princeton University Press as Executive Editor for Art and Architecture. She previously worked in the same position at Yale University Press. Anne Savarese is now Executive Editor for Literature at Princeton University Press.

Marisa Vigilante will join Rodale as Senior Editor, effective February 5. She was most recently an editor at PRH.

Beth Vesel has joined the Irene Goodman Literary Agency as a Senior Vice President. She previously ran the Beth Vesel Literary Agency for ten years, and before that was a Senior Agent at the Sanford J. Greenburger Agency for fourteen years.

Laurie Muchnick is joining Kirkus Reviews in February as Fiction Editor, following the resignation of Elaine Szewczyk. Muchnick has written and edited book reviews for more than 20 years, most recently at Bloomberg News, and currently serves as the President of the National Book Critics Circle.

Publishers Lunch reports that ICM Agent Heather Schroder left the firm recently to start her own agency, Compass Talent. Her first deal under the new banner is with Flatiron Books.

Brooks Sherman has joined the Bent Agency. Sherman was previously an Agent at FinePrint Literary Management.

Molly Barton, Global Digital Director at Penguin and founder of Book Country, has accepted a faculty position at Wesleyan University. She will also consult for publishing-related start-ups.

Jane von Mehren has joined Zachary Shuster Harmsworth as an Affiliate Agent after more than 25 years as an Editor and Publishing Executive, most recently as an SVP and Publisher, Trade Paperback at the Random House Publishing Group.

Justin Hargett has joined the Portfolio, Sentinel, and Current imprints as Senior Publicist. Previously he was a Publicist at Basic Books.

Cowan DeBaets Abrahams & Sheppard LLP (CDAS)  announced the addition of publishing attorney Alex Gigante, formerly Executive Vice President for Legal Affairs for Penguin Group (USA), who has joined the firm as Special Counsel. Through October 2014, he also will continue his association with Penguin Random House in the part-time position of Senior Counsel.

Kelley L. Allen has been named Director of eBooks at Humble Bundle. Allen was formerly the Director of New Media at Random House and Director of eBook Acquisition at Sony, and she was most recently at Kobo. Read More »

Top 5 Publishing Articles/Blog Posts of the Week 1/27-1/31

number_5_redEvery week, we recommend 5 publishing articles/blog posts that supplement the major news for the week. Whether data or industry commentary, we hope these 5 links will be a simple way to keep you in the know. 

A breakdown of the differences in capabilities and sales expectations with ebooks, enhanced ebooks, and apps.

The 2013 holiday sales data is in, naming Mircosoft and Amazon the winners in the tablet market.

The Families and Media Project released a study stating that children between the ages of 2 and 10 read an average of 40 minutes a day.

As budgets for libraries get smaller and smaller, the need for libraries to go digital grows drastically.

Literary Agent David Godwin predicts that, with the influx of large publishing houses, India will become a “dumping ground” for American literature.

Partners’ Corner January 2014

Partners’ Corner is a place where the principals of Market Partners International can share their observations of the publishing industry for the month.

Recently we have been speaking to people outside publishing who might be candidates for a position we are recruiting.  They express concern about moving from whatever medium they are currently in – television, digital, music — to the world of book publishing.  In our recent series, Off the Beaten Path, which profiled publishing professionals taking their skills to other types of companies and media positions, former publishers expressed similar concerns. With many people moving out of the industry, it’s easy for outsiders to wonder if book publishing is a dying industry they should move away from, not into.

However, we have found ourselves answering these queries with a surprising optimism, as we explain that the advent of digital has had an enormously positive impact on profitability. In effect, publishers have successfully converted 20-30 percent of their business to a high margin, low risk model that has allowed for new audiences and platforms. Even back in December 2011, Jeff Dodes, EVP, Marketing and Digital Media Strategy at St. Martin’s (and a music industry immigrant) remarked in an old Publishing Trends article (from our printed newsletter) that “on the whole publishers seem to be embracing digital and restructuring their companies around the future at a faster pace than the music business did.” While digital may have been daunting when it first disrupted the industry with the Kindle, publishers have been able to adapt over the past five or so years.

Plus, where else can passionate book readers find work that requires them to read and talk and market (e)books?

International Bestseller Lists, January 2014

Every month, Publishing Trends runs fiction international bestseller lists from four territories–France, Germany, Italy, and Spain. This month, our four regular territories are joined by two more: Switzerland and Australia.  Those books that have been published in English are listed with their official English-language title. All others are translated as literally as possible from the original. Where applicable, the US publisher is listed after the local publisher, separated by a “/”. The lists are taken from major newspapers or national retailers, which are noted at the bottom of each list.








Top 5 Publishing Articles/Blog Posts of the Week 1/20-1/24

number_5_redEvery week, we recommend 5 publishing articles/blog posts that supplement the major news for the week. Whether data or industry commentary, we hope these 5 links will be a simple way to keep you in the know. 

What would a truly worthy rival of Amazon look like, and where would it come from?

The Oxford English Dictionary’s new Chief Editor plans a new trajectory for the prestigious publication in digital and print to match the evolving English language.

To understand the future of bookstores, the future of publishing must first be uncovered: a look at what may come for brick and mortar stores.

A recent survey of ebook buyers indicates strong loyalties to a chosen retailer, pointing to some clear implications for ebook retailers both small and large.

There is no clear answer on solving the issues of discoverability when selling a book as an ebook versus an app.

Top 5 Publishing Articles/Blog Posts of the Week 1/13-1/17

number_5_redEvery week, we recommend 5 publishing articles/blog posts that supplement the major news for the week. Whether data or industry commentary, we hope these 5 links will be a simple way to keep you in the know. 

A recent study from the Pew Research Center reveals that despite the growth of ereaders, print books remain present in American households.

Digital Book World 2014 focused on an industry in transition, citing new data tools, and growing digital and foreign markets.

The National Book Critics Circle Award nominees were announced for 2013, revealing that 2013 was perhaps a great year for women writers.

The amount of children reading on ereaders is on a steady rise according to a study from PlayCollective.

Why are digital sales of Mein Kampf suddenly so high?

The Subscription Prescription?: Subscription Services at DBW 2014

The word on everyone’s lips during the 2014 Digital Book World conference seemed to be “subscription,” whether it was in the context of the inevitability of Amazon launching their own book service or Michael Cader’s comment at the CEO Roundtable that there are lots of opportunities for subscription models at the niche level. DBW hosted two dedicated panels on January 15th exploring subscriptions for books: the first, from the publisher’s point of view, with F+W’s Sara Domville, Scholastic’s Deborah Forte, HarperCollinsChantal Restivo-Alessi, and Diversion BooksMary Cummings; and a later panel  moderated by Devereux Chatillon, that included Entitle BooksBryan Batten, Scribd’s Andrew Weinstein, Oyster’s Matthew Shatz, and 24symbolsJusto Hidalgo.

The first panel, moderated by Market Partners International’s Lorraine Shanley, focused on how publishers viewed partnering with subscription services, as well as what plans they had for their own direct-to-consumer programs. Mary Cummings commented that, in offering readers a monthly all-you-can-eat subscription as Oyster and Scribd do, it takes the pricing of individual titles out of the equation, thereby offering readers – and publishers – a chance to look the book from a more purely editorial perspective.

Deborah Forte used Scholastic’s relationship with Netflix to argue that the partnership did not have to cannibalize sales – and that it actually enhanced them. HarperCollins has been known for striking deals with a few of the newest subscription startups like Oyster ad Scribd, and Chantal Restivo-Alessi talked about the benefits of subscription services to promote backlists. Sara Domville talked of the many ways in which F+W creates subscriptions for its vertical communities, including very successful how-to videos. Read More »