Keep it simple, Simon

The things you can do with paper these days! Production possibilities have been revolutionising the face of children’s non-fiction for a good few years now. I am currently working on books which include hidden compartments, flaps and pop-ups, supplements, diaries and extraordinary feats of paper engineering and model-making options. It’s all very clever (no thanks to me) and it’s fun to produce and to use.

 Walking around public libraries lately, however, I can’t help but notice that simpler, unadorned information books are still flying off the shelves, even when they are rather battered and elderly editions, dating from the days before the apparent decline of ‘schools and library’ publishing. Public Lending Rights returns suggest the same story.

 I love those books for their simplicity, their logical and contained exposition, their adherence to appropriate reading levels and principles of basic, unfussy design. I like books with titles like Wood, Money, Robots or The Peasants’ Revolt. As a kid I loved collectable series.

 Nostalgia? Perhaps. Hard to sell in the current age? Certainly. But a revamp of the basics could succeed if marketed imaginatively, alongside all the wow, the whistles and bells. They might be more durable too, with less to damage or become torn, and no bits and pieces to lose. And sorry to be boring, but more educational.