A report from Publishers Weekly and the Institute for Publishing Research projects soft sales for children's books through the end of 2012, with the lowest numbers in the five-year span expected for 2009. According to the new PW/IPR Book Sales Index, total children's trade sales totaled $3.16 billion in 2008; that number will dip to $3.05 billion in 2009, and then begin to increase gradually, rising to $3.07 billion in 2010, $3.12 billion in 2011 and $3.18 billion in 2012.

Al Greco, cofounder of IPR, said the decline in discretionary spending among consumers will mean a tough year in 2009 for all trade book segments. The forecast calls for children's paperback to be the strongest segment across the trade this year, albeit with sales inching up only 0.1%.

Fiction for older readers, currently the strongest category in children's books, is projected to rise every year until, increasing by 15% from 2008 to 2012. However, the picture book category is expected to be down 5.7% this year compared to last year, and won't regain its 2008 numbers by 2012 (see charts below).

Reference books will take the biggest hit, thanks to the ubiquity of the Internet. Sales of reference materials are expected to drop from $115 million in 2008 to just $43 million in 2012, a 63% decrease.

In other categories, chapter books (for ages 6—9) will dip from $406 million in 2008 to $386.7 million in 2009, then bounce back to $406 million by 2012. The TV/movie tie-in category will also dip and then regain, going from $386.7 million in 2008 to $351.8 in 2009, then up to $385.5 by 2012.

The projections will be updated quarterly, and we'll run results as they become available. For more projections, go to www.booksalesindex.com.