The Bologna Book Fair, held annually in the spring, is one of the most renowned international children’s book fairs in the world. Every year, hundreds of publishers from all over the world visit the Italian city to learn more about the latest trends in children’s reading.
Among attendees, the number of publishers presenting alternative media forms is striking. Compared to traditional books, CD-ROMs and CDIs offer a variety of entertainment facets, combining pictures, sound and written information in one medium. Multiple impressions are attractive to today’s MTV kids, who are used to digesting a growing diversity in their information flow.
Nonetheless, books and magazines still have their place in filling a child’s spare time. European children spend many hours indulging their imaginations with reading, which results in high purchasing levels of books and magazines.
At the same time, publishers have to come up with new product ideas, as well as more creative ways of packaging, presenting and advertising their goods. Novelty books, which have been popular in America for years, have only recently caught the attention of European publishers. Items such as plush, tattoos, stickers, pens and pins have become popular with licensed books.
Displays, standees and ceiling hangers are slowly making their move, and can be seen in a few modern bookstores. In general, though, the European book trade is still rather conservative.
However, there is a trend toward licensed books and magazines being placed in nontraditional outlets, such as toy stores, children’s department stores, convenience shops and even gas stations, which suggests a more progressive approach. In addition, publishers have become more aware of the possibilities involved in cross-promotions with other licensees, thus opening new sales channels and enabling more creative product presentations.
Publishing books based on entertainment rights offers a wide variety of new and creative business opportunities, cross-promotions being only one of many. Considering that books will be facing fiercer competition for the little spare time children have left, greater creativity and vision are necessary to prepare for the next generation of young readers.
Florian Haffa is managing director of EM-Entertainment, a Munich-based diversified communications company.