In the last few days I have been gloomily tracking the sales rank of The American Story as it crept farther from #1, only to realize this morning that I've been tracking the sales rank of the reinforced library edition. The trade (retail) edition is at 1,426 today. Still a very strong figure, in my opinion. The gloom has retreated.
For those of you unfamiliar with the different bindings available, let me explain. Many children's books are expected to be used in an institutional setting, i.e. a school or library. Thus, an edition with a reinforced binding is often offered by publishers for those markets. Just as the term implies, this binding can stand up to a whole lot more wear and tear than the standard binding can. The edition sold in bookstores or to the average on-line buyer is not the reinforced one. A 3.5 pound book in a school library is going to have to withstand a lot of abuse -- pulled off a shelf by the top of the spine, dropped from the school bus steps, etc. Consider the force force exerted by 3.5 pounds of heavy book falling from the school bus steps onto its edge, or onto a corner: if it's not a reinforced binding it will begin to weaken. After all, a book is just paper, cardboard, string, and glue. These things aren't held together with Kevlar fibers and steel plates.
Because school and library buyers generally buy on the strength of reviews, the reinforced edition doesn't ordinarily sell until the trade magazines (Horn Book, School Library Journal, etc.) have given their stamp of approval for a book, or at the very least, brought it to the attention of the school and library purchasers. The edition sold in bookstores may be responding to very different buying impulses -- a great in-store display, or a print ad in a parenting magazine, or a mention in a newspaper (e.g. Parade). If the book looks gorgeous and is marketed to the general public as a great gift (i.e. good publicity), it won't matter what the reviews say. So these are some of the differences between what the publicity departments and the school and library marketing departments do in children's book publishing. So to finish up this tiresome explanation, the retail edition is off to a fine start. Hopefully the library edition will start hurrying along as well.
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