A decade ago, the telephone was something we used for making calls. But the launch of the iPhone in 2007 transformed the phone as we knew it and led to the development of a range of iOS and Android devices. These technological developments have revolutionised the way in which children, particularly, receive and interact with information, throwing publishers, including Bible publishers, into a state of confusion.
We all developed various assumptions, some right but many only half right or totally wrong. If we are serious about engaging the next generation in God’s Word, it is important that we examine these assumptions. Here are just six:
1. Children and young people are reading less
Studies have shown this to be untrue. In fact, the opposite is occurring among children in the developing world, according to UNESCO’s 2014 Study on Reading in the Mobile era. The study found that people (including children) who had limited access to printed books, are reading more than ever before – but on small phone screens. What does this mean for Bible publishing? That digital has opened the door to Bible access and engagement like never before.
2. Children are abandoning print
Convinced that those born in the digital era would only read on digital devices, publishers flooded the market with children’s eBooks and applications. But this simply isn’t the case. Nielsen, a global research company, recently found that while sales of children’s eBooks are increasing, children still like reading printed books too. Here are a few facts from the report:
- In 2014 more printed children’s books were sold in Brazil and the USA than ever before
- 37% of all printed books sold in the USA are for children and young people (around 34% in the UK, with growing demand in China)
- While around 21% of all eBooks are for children, those aged 13-17 actually prefer reading printed books
- Parents are buying more printed books for younger children, particularly board books
3. Printed books for children will eventually disappear
Every time a new technological development occurs, many people start predicting the demise and disappearance of old technology. But this doesn’t always happen. The new development brings change and people learn from it, but both old and new adapt and survive, meeting different needs and preferences.
4. It’s easy to innovate with children’s books
Many publishers have felt that it’s easy to please children when adapting print books to digital – for instance, that they’ll be happy with typical Bible stories and nice four-color illustrations. But research tells a different story. Today’s generation of children have different expectations to previous generations. A recent study by ChildTech showed that it’s getting harder to impress children when it comes to developing innovative apps and eBooks. Children don’t want to be underestimated. They want power and choice when it comes to the books they read.
5. Big publishers have the edge when it comes to keeping up to date with children’s publishing
Being a large, well-established publishing house can actually be a disadvantage when it comes to keeping up with the changing world of children’s publishing. In his book ‘David and Goliath’, Malcolm Gladwell theorises that David did not win because he was small but because Goliath was big. Strong ministries often have surprising weak spots, and people who seem weak can turn out to be surprisingly strong. With the challenge of reaching the new generation we don’t need to be a Goliath. We need to dare to be a David.
6. We need to promote children’s publications on every social media channel
We shouldn’t overwhelm our audience with cross-promotion. Scholastics has 65 different social media accounts but they do not overwhelm their audiences by cross-promoting their brands and products. It’s important to choose the right social media channels that reach your main audiences, and use creative, fresh campaigns to attract their interest.
Without a doubt we are living in special times when it comes to publishing. So much is changing and there is much to learn if we are to pass the Bible onto our young people. It’s more important now than ever before that we keep connected with them, ensuring that we truly understand their needs rather than making assumptions. They may be more technologically savvy than previous generations but they still take pleasure in good books – print or digital – and are still searching for meaning and inspiration. Let’s ensure that we help them find it – in the Bible.