The Book Industry Study Group is projecting that sales of children's books will increase 5.7% to $2.63 billion in 1999, and that sales will rise a total of 17.5% through 2002 when total children's book revenues are forecast to hit just under $3.1 billion. Unit sales in the 1998-2002 period are projected to rise 10%.

That forecast, however, could be a bit on the conservative side, if preliminary estimates for children's book sales in 1998 hold when the final numbers are released. Initial estimates show children's book sales increasing by more than 11% last year, led by a 20.6% gain in paperback sales. Hardcover sales were estimated to have increased 5%.

Among the factors contributing to the optimistic outlook for sales of children's books are an increase in school and library funding as well as an increase in the number of marketing channels through which books are sold. In the latter category, for example, children's books continue to do well at price clubs. Advanced Marketing Services, which services the price clubs, recently reported that a major reason behind its strong third quarter was a jump in sales of children's books. Sales through a wide number of outlets, including the Internet, were recently cited by HarperCollins president Jane Friedman for "stellar performances" by the company's children's book division. launched its children's Web site last March and the company's Karin Snelson said results have been encouraging. "We have been very pleased with sales to date and feel the entire children's area is a growing market," Snelson said. Amazon currently offers more than 100,000 children's titles and continues to add to its catalogue, she said. Christmas was the site's busiest season, although events can push children's titles to the forefront at different points in the year. For instance, when the winners of the Newbery and Caldecott awards were announced last month, both titles rose to close to the top of Amazon's bestseller list. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was number 35 on Amazon's February 17 bestseller list; the bestselling children's book for all of 1998 was The Emperor's New Clothes.

On the institutional side, the recently published U.S. Industry and Trade Outlook '99 noted that an increase in tax revenues should give schools and libraries higher acquisition budgets this year.

That view is bolstered by Library Journal's ninth annual Budget Report that indicates 1999 will be a robust year for libraries. According to the survey, the budget for library materials is expected to increase 6.5% in 1999, and will include funds for the purchase of both books and electronic materials.

Other encouraging signs from the library funding front include a continuing increase in fundraising efforts for books, as well as the finding that per capita funding by libraries is expected to rise to $26.99 in 1999 from $26.08 in 1998.

Projected Sales Charts