New York • Like millions of parents, Aaron Sacharow welcomes those moments when his son — 7-year-old Tyler — takes a break from video games and picks up a book instead.
He will even settle for the book being a guide to Minecraft, a game that’s sold more than 50 million copies since it was originally released in 2011.
"I don’t want to say it tricks them into reading," says Sacharow, an IT project manager based in Miramar, Florida. "But there are books kids are reading for schools and books that they hopefully like in their free time. And if ‘Minecraft’ books are a motivation to read, that’s a good thing, right? At the very least, they’re developing skills, reading skills."
Since last November, "Minecraft" has spun off into one of publishing’s most successful franchises with a series of compact, illustrated books, priced under $10. Three authorized guides — "Minecraft: Essential Handbook," "Minecraft: Redstone Handbook" and "Minecraft: Construction Handbook," — have already sold more than 6 million copies combined, through a combination of store sales and purchases made through clubs and school fairs, according to Scholastic Inc. The publisher plans "Minecraft: Combat Handbook" for late September and a boxed set for October.
"We first heard from kids themselves about Minecraft, and we started watching a lot of YouTube videos to see what the buzz was about," said Debra Dorfman, Scholastic’s vice president and publisher for licensing.
"Kids, parents and teachers were all saying Minecraft was good for you. Kids are given free rein to play, build and watch YouTube videos of other people playing. Teachers were talking about the educational aspects of creative thinking, geometry, geology and problem solving so parents were agreeing to let them play for hours at a time."
Kira Porton, store manager of A Children’s Place Bookstore in Portland, Oregon, says the guides could well become as popular as such top-selling series as "The Diary of a Wimpy Kid" and "Percy Jackson." Knowing little about Minecraft herself, she had initially ordered just a few copies of the guides and found herself repeatedly asking for more.
"They’re in the process of just exploding," Porton says. "What’s amazing is that we usually have to personally recommend books for them to sell that well. These books just fly off the shelf without our having to say anything."
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