New York - The book business isn't just a story of what sells, but of what gets left behind.
Over at the "Remainders" section of the industry's annual national convention, BookExpo America, publishers of discount books have noticed two strong trends in recent years. Fiction sales have fallen sharply, while children's books have taken off.
Remainders are unsold copies of books that publishers turn over to companies such as Book Depot, which in turn might offer a Stephen King novel or Mitt Romney's "No Apology" for discounts as high as 90 percent.
Like everyone else in the book world, sellers of remainders have been affected by the e-revolution, a topic discussed obsessively this week at the Jacob K. Javits Center.
The three-day convention, attended by tens of thousands of booksellers, publishers, writers and librarians, ended Thursday.
Publishers in recent years have been cutting the number of adult books they print as e-sales increase, reducing the leftover copies a store might return to the publisher. New fiction releases are especially popular in digital format, with half or more the million-selling "50 Shades" trilogy and other hits sometimes selling as e-books during a given week.
Meanwhile, a strong and sometimes overwhelming majority of picture books and young adult novels are still sold on paper. And print runs can be enormous, like the 6.5 million copies just announced for Jeff Kinney's latest "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" novel, which comes out in November.
That often leads to more volume for remainders companies, although sales also have been strong the first time around. According to the Association of American Publishers, revenue for children's books was up by more than 70 percent in early 2012 compared to the same time last year.
The reigning heroine of children's literature, J.K. Rowling, has written one of the adult books most discussed at the convention: the mystery novel "The Casual Vacancy." Others favored by booksellers included Jon Meacham's biography of Thomas Jefferson and Junot Diaz's "This is How You Lose Her."
The mood at BookExpo was positive, even as publishers absorb the downfall of the Borders superstore chain (a special blow for paperbacks, noted Penguin CEO David Shanks) and brace themselves for any effects from the government's lawsuit against Apple and five leading publishers, alleging price fixing of e-books.
"The industry is a lot healthier than we would have predicted," said Carolyn Reidy, CEO of Simon & Schuster. "Certainly people are focused on books for lots of reasons, from the fact there have been a series of huge blockbusters like 'Hunger Games,' Steve Jobs and the 'Fifty Shades' books, to curiosity about ebooks and what they mean for the industry. Because our business is changing, we're in the news much more often. To the extent there's a widespread conversation about books, it's a good thing." AT A GLANCE
DISCOUNT BOOK TRENDS: Fiction sales have fallen sharply, while children's books have taken off.
EFFECT OF E-BOOKS: Publishers have been cutting the number of adult books they print as e-book sales increase. That reduces the leftover copies available for discount sellers. Most picture books and young adult novels are still sold on paper, which often leads to more volume for the discounters.
TRADE SHOW: The mood at BookExpo America this week was positive, even as publishers absorb the downfall of the Borders superstore chain and brace themselves for any effects from a government lawsuit alleging price fixing of e-books.