This year is set to be a strong one for children’s non-fiction, with retailers reporting customer interest in academic books as well as gift titles.
The children’s non-fiction charts in 2014 have been dominated by Egmont’s Minecraft books. Four books in the series—The Official Redstone Handbook, The Official Construction Handbook, The Official Beginner’s Handbook and The Official Combat Handbook—have accounted for £3.7m in sales (736,416 in volume) during the first 20 weeks of the year, according to Nielsen BookScan.
However, taking Minecraft books and annuals out of the equation, the TCM 5,000 still grew 1.9% in value terms over the same period, to £18.1m, up from £17.8m last year. The combined volume of TCM 5,000 titles (excluding Minecraft and annuals) was 3,136,351 during the first 20 weeks of 2014, up from 3,104,880 in 2013.
Academic books are currently flying off the shelves and the Reference and Home Learning sub-genre was up 7% in value terms in Q1 2014. Based on TCM 5,000 data for the past 20 weeks, £2.42m has been spent on home reference books so far this year, compared to £2.38m for the same period in 2013.
For Kate Agnew, owner of the Children’s Bookshop, Muswell Hill, sales of academic books are a key part of her business, especially with the recent changes to the curriculum. “Up until about six months ago the wisdom was that non-fiction sales were dwindling because of the internet,” she said. “But because of the changes in schools—and possibly because of parents’ concerns over internet use—it’s a growing market.”
Within the Non-fiction TCM 5,000, educational publisher Coordination Group Publication (CGP) is the second-biggest publisher of the year so far (after Egmont), with sales of just under £3m.
The top-selling author of educational books so far this year is Carol Vorderman, who has enjoyed a 30% value fillip and selling £276,543 worth of home and study guides—including 24,687 copies of her 10 Minutes series on learning maths.
Forty-five separate editions of Shakespeare’s works have so far generated £112,611 within the 5,000, while sales of only one J B Priestley play, "An Inspector Calls", have contributed £142,469.
Demand for non-educational non-fiction continues to grow. Terry Deary is the bestselling author in the list, ratcheting up sales of £304,642. Deary’s World Book Day title Horrible Histories: Terrible Trenches was the most popular book on the list after the Minecraft titles, with 92,972 units sold.
Response to Maps, Bonnier’s hardback collection of maps by Aleksandra Mizielińska and Daniel Mizieliński, has also been strong. The book has sold 10,742 copies for a total of £187,287 in 2014. Melissa Cox, children’s buyer at Waterstones, described the book as a “runaway success”.
Georgina Hanratty, manager of the Tales on Moon Lane bookshop, said gift non-fiction books always do well, singling out Usborne and DK.
One area that has declined is YA General Interest & Leisure, which fell 9% in value year on year in Q1 2014, to £223,452. However, Cox said the genre may be on the up. “With James Dawson’s guide for teens Being a Boy (Hot Key Books) a recent stand-out, there’s definitely potential to expand in this area. I’ve always got my eyes peeled for titles that fit into this.”