Kid pubcos eye e-publishing
At least one kids pubco appears ready to follow its adult brethren into the great digital abyss. According to Random House Children’s Publishing spokesperson Judith Haut, RHC plans to unveil a digital imprint for its kids titles this month. ‘With the [digital publishing sector] growing the way that it is, we think there’s a lot of potential there for [children's books],’ says Haut, who was unable to provide details on the names or the number of titles the company plans to initially release. RHC will join its parent company Random House, which last month announced it was launching AtRandom, a digital imprint under which it will publish titles for adult audiences, and Time-Warner Trade Publishing, which in May announced its own iPublish.com cyber book division. (According to Michael Weinstein, a spokesperson for iPublish, the company has no immediate plans to make children’s titles available). While the upside of digital publishing-no inventory, distribution or printing costs-will be highly appealing to some pubcos, others are dubious the format will be successful in the kids genre.
‘The challenge for kids publishing is how and where kids will pay for digital books. Most kids read books at school primarily, and I don’t see that changing in the immediate future,’ says Susan Knopf, senior VP of marketing and development at Parachute Publishing. For now, Knopf sees the Internet primarily as a tool to help promote Parachute authors like R. L. Stine. To that end, last month Parachute, in association with HarperCollins Children’s books and Headbone Interactive, began offering a new Stine novel called The Dead of Night exclusively on the Net last month. Parachute is using the e-book, which kids can download for free at www.nightmareroom.com, to raise awareness for Stine’s latest horror anthology series The Nightmare Room, which is due out in paperpack from HarperCollins this month. ‘We’re not using The Dead of Night as a test of e-commerce, but as way for R. L. Stine to give back something to people who join the Nightmare community,’ says Knopf. In addition to the DON installments, the site will also offer kids excerpts from The Nightmare Room series, plus the chance to talk with the author, who is scheduled to participate in hour-long on-line chats once a month.
Scholastic corners Malcolm in the Middle license
Malcolm in the Middle, Fox TV’s surprise mid-season hit from last winter, is ready to take on the world of publishing. Scholastic has signed an agreement with Fox Consumer Products to develop books based on the show about a gifted, though neurotic, middle grader and his dysfunctional (by TV standards, anyway) family. Scholastic will release the first two titles, Life is Unfair (US$4.99), a novelization of the series’ pilot, and My Class Project, a scrapbook featuring pics and bios of the show’s characters (US$5.99), this November. Other titles in the series are in the works, but Scholastic has not yet confirmed release dates.