I'm late to the discussion re the New York Times article about picture books but enough people have now asked me for my thoughts that here they are. Fewer picture books are being published because a) the profit margin on them is not as good as it is for novels and b) fewer people are buying them because i. they are expensive and ii. there are currently fewer young children than there were in eras when picture books boomed. While we would normally expect the numbers of picture books to increase as the population again tends younger (as it is), Cassandra here is having a little trouble reading the future because of the new variable of electronic publishing getting better, cheaper, and reaching younger.
As far as parents pushing kids out of picture books goes, that is neither new nor news. As Robin Smith and Dean Schneider told us in "Unlucky Arithmetic," "throw out the picture books" is one of thirteen time-tested ways to raise a non-reader. When I was a children's librarian, which was probably before the Times reporter was even born, I was regularly told by parents that such-and-such book for Junior was "too easy." People who think reading is supposed to be difficult most often--surprise!--don't like to read themselves and, in a perfect world, would have their interference met by a friendly but firm "you don't know what you are talking about."
And, as many in the blogosphere have been pointing out, anecdotal evidence of bookstore behavior is not going to give us the complete picture. It was the wise Jane Botham of the Milwaukee Public Library who told me that the book to buy in the bookstore was the one the child had already checked out of the library over and over again. Start there.