Thursday, July 20, 2017

Color It Dead: The Coloring Book Bubble Has Burst

Stick a crayon in it: The adult coloring book craze is dead.

Coloring books with grown-up themes were the hot item of 2016 for both brick-and-mortar bookstores and for retail sales of magazines.

Publishers eagerly jumped aboard the bandwagon, cranking out new products in a category that’s well-suited to analog, in-person sales and definitely ill-suited to electronic editions. (Seen a Kindle edition of a coloring book lately?)

Now many stores have grown wary of the category, as sales plummet and inventory stacks up, according to book-industry sources.

Barnes & Noble reported that coloring books were the main reason its Sterling Publishing Co.’s sales grew 22% in the year that ended on April 30, 2016 – and declined 20% during the following nine months.

Recently, B&N management reportedly told its buyers to put the kibosh on bringing in any more adult coloring books, "with rare exceptions." Other retailers are predicting their 2017 book sales will be down versus last year because of the coloring book crash.

Data about sales of adult coloring bookazines distributed via the “newsstand” (magazine retail) system are harder to come by. Magazine publishers were later to the party than book publishers, but many still profited for a while.

The MagNet newsstand-analysis service reported in early 2016 that the category was growing in both titles and unit sales, “with many releases selling over 125,000 copies on the newsstand at higher cover prices.”

But the coloring book trend seems to have cooled off, if not crashed, for magazine publishers as well. No longer does every industry conferences include a speaker telling us that the way to stop the newsstand system from circling the drain is to publish more adult coloring books.

And Cosmo never did publish the Kama Sutra Coloring Book, packaged with a box of 24 different "Flesh Tone" Crayolas, that I was so hoping for.

My friends in the book trade say the Next Big Thing is joke books. Some will say the magazine industry got a jump on that trend with all the special issues about President Trump. (But I, for one, am not laughing.)

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