The Scholastic Book Fair was such a big part of my educational culture, and I'm not sure if I would've been so gung-ho about reading if I hadn't had the opportunity to be introduced to new books every month through the Scholastic program. It was part of how I learned what I love to read. So you can imagine how happy I was to hear that the program is still going strong, even in this new, digitally focused market. The Wall Street Journal has the scoop:
Alan Boyko, president of Scholastic Book Fairs, said the events are critical for authors and publishers, as many popular series—including "Goosebumps," "The Baby-sitter's Club" and "Captain Underpants"—are often first discovered by young readers at school book fairs.
Scholastic, which sells its own books as well as those offered by other publishers, says publishers are keen to see early demand trends for new books that are hitting the market. The company, which runs 128,000 book fairs across the country annually and continues to add new events, is due to report fiscal fourth-quarter results on Thursday.
The company's book fair business has been relatively resilient in a time when many brick-and-mortar book stores are closing. Scholastic reported book fair revenue grew 3% to $288.1 million for the first nine months of the fiscal year ended Feb. 29. From 2007 to 2011, the unit's sales jumped 10%.
Craig Hatkoff is one author who keeps the importance of book fairs in mind before crafting his nonfiction children's picture books. He collaborates with Scholastic and the fairs to make sure there is interest in the real-life stories he writes about, which focus on animals overcoming adversity.
"The sales force are your partners who are going to get the book into the schools and get essential distribution to kids," Mr. Hatkoff said.
Though Mr. Hatkoff is an established author, Scholastic sought to leverage the company's own book fairs as a way to promote his latest title, "Winter's Tail: How One Little Dolphin Learned to Swim Again." Scholastic contends word-of-mouth recommendations of new books at a fair can be a great marketing tool, as many children's books aren't advertised.
Mr. Hatkoff, who coauthors books with his daughters Isabella and Juliana, gave a presentation for "Winter" to Scholastic's sales force in Florida just before the book was published in 2009. Scholastic says as a result of that effort, the title sold exceptionally well in that market.
Al Greco, a professor at Fordham University and a book publishing industry expert, said industry data shows the number of U.S. books stores and outlets shrank 32% over an eight-year period, with 16,968 locations as of 2010.
Mr. Greco said though Scholastic's book fair business has been bolstered of late by popular series including "The Hunger Games" and "Twilight," there are some threats.
Rising transportation and delivery costs can eat into the unit's profit, and Mr. Greco said independent book sellers and Barnes & Noble Inc. BKS +1.18% have moved into the space. He said increased public-school access to computers and iPads could dent revenue.
"As book stores continue to close and consumers show an interest in buying digital books and books online, I think the book fair business will lose its traction, which will have a great impact on Scholastic," Mr. Greco said.
Scholastic has sought to address the e-book market by launching an e-reading application called Storia. While the digitalization of picture books and young-adult books is occurring at a slower pace than books for adults, Mr. Greco said e-readers will continue to permeate the younger market.
Signs promoting Storia could be seen at a recent book fair at the Nest, a K-12 school in Manhattan. The school's Parent Teachers Association hosts a Scholastic book fair twice a year, an event parents and educators praised.
Anita Leone, a parent volunteer who runs the event at the Nest, said the fair was highly popular as parents also purchased books to add to classroom libraries.
Bellamy Richardson, a fifth-grade student at the school with a copy of Alyson Noel's "Radiance" in her hands, said she always bought books at the fair.
"I like that I can come here at school, I don't have to go to a Barnes & Noble, and there are so many books and I can talk to my friends about it," Bellamy said.
Bellamy is the ideal customer. She says reading is her favorite hobby.
Read the original article HERE