When Kermit the Frog trilled, ‘It’s not easy being green,’ we can be pretty certain he didn’t have kids book publishers in mind. But in this eco-conscious era, the connection is apt. Toycos went green last year, and it looks like Little
Simon, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, may be one of the first mass-market publishers to take on eco-friendly books with the launch of Little Green Books this fall. The irony, of course, is that printing on paper is not exactly celebrated as an environmentally sound practice, so Little Simon has gotten to work on turning that perception around.
Valerie Garfield, VP and publisher for novelty and licensed publishing at S&S Children’s, is currently forging partnerships with enviro organizations for the fall launch. But in the lead-up to that, the company has literally started seeding the market. To raise awareness with potential retailers, librarians and consumer press outlets, S&S has been handing out bookmarks printed on recycled paper with soy-based inks that come with a leaf of seed paper attached. ‘We’re giving away the bookmarks at conferences,’ says Garfield. ‘People can then plant the seed paper, and it will bloom.’
However, in another irony, the bookmarks may be the only promotional material that winds up getting printed for Little Green Books. Marketing is largely being handled electronically, with press releases and outreach materials being sent electronically. Additionally, a lot of consumer marketing activity will take place around www.simonsayskids.com/littlegreenbooks. ‘The last thing we wanted to do was produce extra materials,’ says Garfield. So the 100% recyclable book packaging will direct kids and parents to the website. They’ll be able to find additional information about the endangered animals featured in the books, as well as screensavers, activities and green kits that will build on the central message of the books – there are small changes we can all easily make to our routines to help the environment. For kids, says Garfield, these efforts could be as simple as not leaving the tap running while brushing their teeth, or using less toilet paper.
‘When we decided to do this,’ says Garfield, ‘we knew everything attached to it had to be green as well.’ The books will launch in two formats – cloth and 8×8 board – and they come in at under US$10, making them suitable for mass-market distribution. The board books are made from recycled paper and also printed with soy-based inks. (The retail stand-alone displays are made from the same materials and are 100% recyclable.) For the cloth books, Garfield’s team spent quite a bit of time sourcing viable fabric and ended up going with PolarTec fleece, which is largely made from recycled plastic and usually used for outdoor apparel – it’s not a material S&S had ever considered using in a book before.
Garfield says retail interest has been good, and S&S is already planning to release additional titles in spring 2009, including a series of Little Green Nick books based on the enviro-activities of Dora, Diego and The Wonder Pets.