What will it take to get young people reading ebooks?

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It’s something I’ve been thinking about lately. We already know that a growing number of young people aren’t reading, but at the same time we’ve seen remarkable publishing success in a few notable book franchises that are aimed at middle grade and young adult readers. As 2011 has progressed, we’ve seen an explosion in eBook sales, Amazon’s Kindle is selling faster than they can build them and there’s the usual refrain about the death of so-called “traditional” publishing. So let’s think about what would happen were electronic devices to finally replace print as the medium of choice for reading. In other words: who’s your market, baby?

It’s pretty clear that a growing number of adults are buying the Kindle or similar devices, but e-readers haven’t yet reached anywhere near critical mass among young people. Partly because they don’t have over a hundred bucks to shell out for one, but also because there are competing electronic devices that kids are using on a daily basis – smartphones, iPads and laptops. Personally, I would never read a book on an iPad because the lit screen would drive me nuts and give me a grinding headache, but is that device the one that would tap into the huge market for young adult readers?

Or … is an A-list author like Stephanie Meyer going to put out her next epic tome exclusively on an electronic device? You see, this one is more plausible in my view because there might be more money to be made that way. Her agent could strike an exclusive deal with Amazon, for example, to publish exclusively via Kindle and the fact that her brand is well-established might drive parents to buy e-readers for their kids. Alternatively perhaps even a “themed” Kindle with a groovy cover/case that is branded to look like the books – the mind truly boggles.

My bet is on Amazon signing up established brands in Young Adult and marketing exclusively to teens in a cool looking book/Kindle package. The author will make more money because of the amended royalty formula for ebooks and parents will be rushing to Amazon’s website to buy their little darlings the latest themed gadgetry.

Or not. I’m just speculating here, but it seems to me this is a very real scenario, and one we might see withing the next couple of years. Whether this would drive the yet to be tapped-into kids ebook market remains to be seen, but one thing is for certain – if it’s an untapped market, someone will figure out a way to access it.

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