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Sendak passes away, his legacy of books goes on

U.S. President Barack Obama acts out a part of the story while reading from the book "Where The Wild Things Are" with first lady Michelle Obama (L) and his daughter Sasha (R) during the White House Easter Egg Roll on April 9, 2012 in Washington, D.C. It was reported that the author of "Where the Wild Things Are," Maurice Sendak, died today.

Standing with a character from his book "Where the Wild Things Are," author and illustrator Maurice Sendak in 2002.

Kai Ryssdal: Maurice Sendak died today. It doesn't take much to conjure up his best known book other than for me to say: The night Max wore his wolf suit. And made mischief. Of one kind. Or another.

But for as many copies of "Where the Wild Things Are" as have been sold, the children's book business is no fairy tale. Marketplace's Sally Herships reports.


Sally Herships: I’m going to start this story with a happy ending. The market for children’s books is doing pretty well. Peter Glassman owns Books of Wonder, a children’s bookstore in New York.


Peter Glassman
: People want to repeat their childhood experiences that they love, with their children.

And the big bad wolf trying to huff and puff and blow down all the bricks and mortar stores -- I’m talking about e-books. They haven’t made a chink in sales. So far, Glassman says the Kindles, Nooks and iPads of the world are no match for a paper children’s book.

Glassman: A book is a physical object. It has weight, it has feel, it has a texture.

It has sentiment. And if you drop it in the tub at storytime, it doesn't take a year's allowance to replace. That's why there aren't more pictures books available as ebooks. And even when books for kids and young adults are available as ebooks, buyers still want to crack the binding. The Association of American Publishers says so far this year, sales for old fashioned paper books for kids and young adults are 50 percent more than last year.

But here's a mystery:

Michael Norris: I’ve looked at statistics from a number of different sources that show children’s and young adult reading trends. And they’ve been pretty much been going absolutely nowhere for.

Michael Norris is an analyst with Simba Information. He  says a lot of young adult books, like the "Hunger Games," are being bought by adults. And when paper editions are bought instead of digital. Well, that would make Maurice Sendak happy. I’d tell you what he said about e-books, but not until after bedtime. It’s not fit for little ears.

In New York, I’m Sally Herships for Marketplace.


Ryssdal: Nah, I'll tell you what Mauric Sendak said: "I hate them. It's like making believe there's another kind of sex. There isn't another kind of sex. There isn't another kind of book! A book is a book is a book."

Maurice Sendak, dead today at 83.

About the author

Sally Herships is a regular contributor to Marketplace.

Standing with a character from his book "Where the Wild Things Are," author and illustrator Maurice Sendak in 2002.

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