Good for Kids, Good for Publishers

Issue 03-24-14   |   Reviewer:   Douglas L. Wilson, MBA


First Book, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, offers about 5,200 book titles to children from low-income homes from most every children’s publishers. Paperback books, priced around three dollars, sell to this group, and publishers report that it doesn't hurt retail sales of full priced hardcover versions. Margins are thinner for the publisher, but it's a chance to cultivate future customers. The First Book Marketplace, the nonprofit’s online bookstore, is opening an underserved market for publishers at a time when traditional bookstore sales are falling.

First Book sold 4 million books to 95,000 schools, the Head Start Program, after-school programs, and other educational groups in the United States and Canada. It expects to sell 5 million in 2014 as it starts similar programs in Latin America and India. Its sales accounted for about 2 percent of all U.S. juvenile books sold last year. About 35 percent of First Book’s overall operating budget comes from Marketplace book sales; the rest comes from corporate and individual donors and from foundations.

First Book now wants publishers to create more multicultural content and is asking publishers to recommend backlist titles featuring minority characters.

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