I met up with a friend who edits up-scale cookbooks by brand name authors. The way she sees her world helped me to understand ours. Her main customer, she has come to understand, is a 49 year old woman who wants a beautiful book. The price is not a concern, and, in reverse, getting an on-screen version that was not as attractive, would be a significant negative. That same woman probably has a Kindle and uses it to get the latest Sue Miller, or, for that matter, Sue Grafton. But that has no effect on what she wants from a cookbook.
Price certainly is an object for the mothers and grandmothers, librarians and teachers, who purchase so many children’s books. But so is craft, design, art, the thoughtful weave of art, text, and page turn that Brian Selznick celebrated in his Caldecott speech www.theinventionofhugocabret.com/index.htm Before we even consider lap quality, the physicality of at least picture books — but, I would argue, illustrated book (especially in non-fiction) up through the whole age range — is a significant part of the experience both adult-selecters and young-users want in our books.
So even as the headlines these days — and the consuming questions in the halls of publishing — are about ebooks, the IPad, the Kindle — we need to realize that the book world is actually splintering. The eworld is changing the game for straight text adult novels, and perhaps soon enough YA novels (though even there, I don’t know how many teens are saving up to buy ereaders, or parents (outside of the wealthiest) are giving them to their kids). But at the very same time, for us, as for the adult illustrated book market, life goes on much as it did two years, and one hundred years, ago. Now there are opportunities for us — to be discussed here. But we do need to recognize that the trends that sweep the adult world, and the publishing world headlines, do not apply to us.