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How do you feel about EPub or iBooks?

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giantatom

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I'm in the business of transforming picture books into a dynamic interactive experience. I started out with CD Roms and now have moved to iPad Apps. Here is and example...
 http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/icarus-swinebuckle/id381680489?mt=8
What I want to know is how do you folks feel about picture books being published in an electronic format ie... apps, or iBook format.
Keep in mind the iBook or Epub format can be just like a book... still pictures with text.
But you can also add in a little video to keep it intersting like this
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BdDZ5MSlT1Q
The iPad or tablet gives more flexibilty for interactiviy.

I guess the real question is do you think publishing as we know it will give way to digital downloads, just as it did in the music business?
#1 - September 26, 2010, 12:09 PM

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It may give way at some point, but right now there are still an awful lot of people who prefer print books, or who feel ebooks are fine for some circumstances such as travel, but not for all the time.

This is not to say there would be no market for interactive e-PBs, but it might be more of a niche market at first.

#2 - September 26, 2010, 02:39 PM

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I have no problems with ebooks but I wonder if they'd really work for books for very young children. My 2-year old destroys books...chewing, ripping pages out, walking over them...I hate to see what he'd do with an ipad.
#3 - September 26, 2010, 06:17 PM

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I'm with Wonky on this one. Until they come up with a waterproof, bite-proof, drop-proof ipad, parents are likely to prefer spending on a board book rather than handing over their equipment to a sticky-fingered kid.

I've seen some of the trailers for picture books on the ipad (one was for Alice in Wonderland and it was amazing!) and there's no doubt that picture books will also be viewed this way by a proportion of children whose parents aren't bothered if something gets damaged, but it'll take a long time before this format actually affects in-your-hand picture book sales.

Plus parents are continually being told of the importance of reading aloud to children and while books on a screen may have a voiceover it's not the same as having a real, live mum or dad sitting next to you, giving you time, using his/her special voice to convey those words on the page. For example, my daughter loves to watch episodes of Charlie and Lola on my laptop but if she has the choice between that and sitting on my lap with me reading her a Charlie Lola book? The book (or me!) wins every time. That will change as she gets older but for very young kids parental attention is KING! Or queen. He he.

Comparing picture books to music tracks doesn't really work. Music is bought by all kinds of different people; picture books are bought by parents/family pretty much exclusively. The market is also different. No one would argue that listening to a track on your ipod would limit your intelligence (when compared to live music, say) whereas I bet you could find a lot of people who'd argue that putting a kid in front of an ipad picture book is less likely to get them engaged and learning as sitting with a family member/carer and reading the same story out loud.

Oops, seem to have prattled on for quite some time. I feel quite strongly about this!
#4 - September 26, 2010, 07:13 PM

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No one would argue that listening to a track on your ipod would limit your intelligence (when compared to live music, say) whereas I bet you could find a lot of people who'd argue that putting a kid in front of an ipad picture book is less likely to get them engaged and learning as sitting with a family member/carer and reading the same story out loud.


Franziska, there was an article supporting the gist of this statement in a recent issue of Science News (here's a link:) http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/62973/title/DVDs_don%E2%80%99t_turn_toddlers_into_vocabulary_Einsteins
#5 - September 26, 2010, 07:24 PM
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Yeah. I'm not a luddite or anything, and would much rather have a hard drive full of ebooks like I have with MP3's--takes up waaaay less closet space!

I just don't think it would work for really little kid books. My 2-year old has tons board books and he carries them around everywhere, even tries to take them in the shower sometimes. And he likes to open them up to certain pages (with the alphabet, for example). He basically plays with them as if they are toys.

Sometimes I show him Sesame Street and other songs on Youtube, but only when he's sitting in my lap. He wouldn't be able to do it on his own. Sometimes if I leave the computer unattended he tries...basically by slamming his hands on the keyboard. Then I have to close the laptop.

Digital format for this age group would require a huge amount of constant parental supervision. I just don't think it's compatible.

Whenever I see ideas like this floating around I wonder if the people who come up with them interact much with little kids...
#6 - September 26, 2010, 07:46 PM
« Last Edit: September 26, 2010, 07:50 PM by Wonky »

giantatom

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I'd like to thank those who responded to my question and would also like to address some of the ideas that were discussed.
To be clear I am a digital publisher and I also like printed books better. They simply feel better. With that said I still believe there is a place for digital publishing. It is very expensive to publish in paper. A typical picture book may cost the consumer $12 where I can offer it for $2 to $3. With that I give a read-a-long option and some animation and interactivity.The response from thousands of parents who have purchased these digital books has been extremely positive.

To answer my own original question.... No... digital publishing will never replace paper publishing  completely but economics has created a space for it and it is growing rapidly.

The other question that was raised was 'reading to children vs putting a child in front of an iPad'.  I really don't think any parent has to leave a child alone to read a book. Just because the book is capable of reading to a child on its own doesn't mean that the parent can't sit there and use the digital device WITH the child and have a similar experience as the printed version. If you visit my website (giantatom.com) you'll see a video about the Hebb Rule. A spoken word and a picture combined is what enables a child to learn. I believe that when the spoken word comes from the parent it has so much more impact on the child. This is why my books allow parents to record their own voice as the narrator.  They also allow you to read it like a book!

One last thing is I agree with the person who said that her two year old chews on the corner of the books.. :)   You really can't do that with an iPad!  Actually the books I've done so far are really geared for the older crowd.. 3 to 6. 

Thank you all for the feedback.
-Paul Scaturro
Giant Atom Publishing
#7 - October 16, 2010, 07:06 AM

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I have a question for you, giantatom. How does a moving image storybook differ from a movie/cartoon? It doesn't have dialogue? I just watched the preview on your site (looks great) but realized that if I 'read' that story to my daughter, she would watch the elf moving/doing whatever I was describing and so would take in less of what I was saying (because she's also be focusing on the moving image, which is exciting and stimulating to a child's mind). Plus there's no room for imagination in between each 'spread' if it's all moving imagery?

OR is the preview not representative of what's in an iPad storybook? I'm just curious. Your books appear to be high quality and I can definitely see there'd be a market for them, I just wonder what the differences are between a cartoon/animation and a moving-image storybook.

Thanks!
#8 - October 16, 2010, 12:40 PM

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Ok good question. Most of the book is not animated. In fact there is roughly five animations per picturebook. This keeps it interesting but doesn't cross the barrier of perception vs reception.  For an example of how each book is set up take a look at this review done by an app review company:
http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5165247/icarus_swinebuckle_ipad_app_review/

As you can see a majority of the book is not animated but animated enough to keep your interest. There is also the 'Atomic Reader' touch 'n read system where any word can be touched and heard. (Not included on all books)

thank you for asking!
#9 - October 16, 2010, 07:47 PM

I admit, I love books in print.  Love the feel, smell of holding a book.  But I'm also totally loving my Kindle.  My nine year old has read books off it too.  Sure, he loves paper books like me but the ebook players are fun too.  They'll be coming out in color soon too. My husband is a computer programmer so we're always up to new technology.  The only thing I have seen is how teens have held off purchasing ebooks.  They prefer books in print.  
#10 - October 17, 2010, 07:35 AM
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I have to be honest...

I think picture books are the kind of book you need to hold in your hand.

Period.

Other types of books might go the way of the ipad, kindle or whatever. But picture books? I hope they never do.
#11 - October 17, 2010, 12:17 PM
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What Donna E. said....totally agree.  Just sayin' :flower
#12 - October 17, 2010, 01:24 PM

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I'll preface my answer by saying that I'm not anti-technology. We use computers and microwaves. We even watch movies together ... our kids are 9 and 11 now, but for the first 6-7 years of their lives, there was no TV or computer or video games for them. And they are caught up with their peers in the computer dept. We haven't seen any detrimental effects. They pick it up very quickly.

But for young children, screen-time is not a good idea. We've always read to our children, let them turn pages, pore over the pictures. We even allowed them to add pictures to the books. There is something wonderful and tactile about the book. The smell, the pages, how you can flip to your favorite page that is simply not possible with an ebook. And some of the board books and novelty books are especially sturdy and fun and provide hours of entertainment.

I do like the idea of ebooks for older readers for minimzing space ... but unless a family can share them on the devices, it is prohbitively expensive. We're sticking to the library and real books for now.

Vijaya
#13 - October 17, 2010, 03:13 PM
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Stephanie, yours is a major and important point... one that hadn't even occurred to me! There are already established authors who publish only in e-reader format (not many but they exist) but by doing so they are absolutely excluding a huge proportion of the world's reading population. If children's publishers began to put all their money and energy into e-books, where would that leave the rest of the world's kids whose schools/parents couldn't afford e-readers?

Hmm, interesting. Thanks for bringing that aspect up!
#14 - October 17, 2010, 06:36 PM

I agree with Vijaya's comment.  I didn't let my son play computer games till he was 7 years old and he still doesn't have a DS. I read to him since birth as I know the importance of reading for young children.  Now my son loves books.  I have to hide some of my review copies or else he'll dig through the boxes asking where his book to review is!  I just started him on reading ebooks.  He's now nine.  He'll do it for a few minutes but then will ask, "Mom, where is the book?  You know the book?"  He's fallen asleep reading books--like I did at his age.

I think ebooks are great and would love for the trend to appeal to teens who so far are avoiding them.  That's been my experience.  
#15 - October 17, 2010, 06:50 PM
NO MORE GODDESSES:
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CROSSED OUT:http://www.lachesispublishing.com

giantatom

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I'd like to address the point of the expense of the e-readers and the exclusion of those who can't afford to purchase one.

In my opinion the paper publishers will try to push people over to the e-readers over time. In the Barnes and Noble in my neighborhood they cleared out the whole center section of the floor and installed booths with about 20 or more e-readers or Nooks as they call them. They actually have a full time person pushing the product. It takes up more space than 10 categories of books!  The push is real.  Why you ask??  Because they want to get people locked into a device to force them to purchase all books made for that device. The device itself will drop in price. It is just like VCR's and DVD players when they first appeared, very expensive when they first came out but now everyone has one.

If everyone goes digital the retailer loses unless they sell a device.  Paper will never go away completely because everyone loves it so much. So not to worry, there will be choices but digital will grow exponentially.

#16 - October 18, 2010, 01:37 PM

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No one's arguing that the digital market will grow, particularly in the adult sector and in reference and textbooks.  How strong its market share of early children's books will be, however, is open to debate.  And I think e-readers will remain less popular among teens because the simple fact is that teens don't have credit cards to download books with, and they love being able to share physical books among themselves.

I'm not sure the Nook uses a proprietorial platform the way the Kindle does... ???  And the Sony e-reader doesn't.
#17 - October 18, 2010, 01:56 PM
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The device itself will drop in price. It is just like VCR's and DVD players when they first appeared, very expensive when they first came out but now everyone has one.

I teach at a school where most kids and their families live below the poverty line. Even if electronic readers do come down in price (as I'm sure they will), they'll never be free, like library books.

Just a thought.
#18 - October 18, 2010, 03:48 PM
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What's the point of having a picture "book" that reads itself to you and is animated? That's not a book, if you ask me. Why not just watch TV?
#19 - October 18, 2010, 04:08 PM

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What's the point of having a picture "book" that reads itself to you and is animated? That's not a book, if you ask me. Why not just watch TV?

Because it is not TV... it is not a receptive medium. It only has minimal animation as I said earlier to keep the child's attention. The child is still seeing words light up as they are being spoken... they learn from that...  You are still there as a parent possibly not using the automated system and just reading it and turning pages like a regular book... the only difference is that there is no paper... again that is not TV.
The child can touch words and hear them spoken.. can't do that on TV.
Some books have other interactive experiences that the child can learn from.... My CDRom versions have questions about the book for comprehension exercises...the parent would have to be there to read the questions....

So I think that you misunderstand the concept...  It's not like you put your child in front of it and walk away...  It is just another medium to display a book.
#20 - October 18, 2010, 05:28 PM

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Because it is not TV... it is not a receptive medium. It only has minimal animation as I said earlier to keep the child's attention. The child is still seeing words light up as they are being spoken... they learn from that...  You are still there as a parent possibly not using the automated system and just reading it and turning pages like a regular book... the only difference is that there is no paper... again that is not TV.
The child can touch words and hear them spoken.. can't do that on TV.
Some books have other interactive experiences that the child can learn from.... My CDRom versions have questions about the book for comprehension exercises...the parent would have to be there to read the questions....

So I think that you misunderstand the concept...  It's not like you put your child in front of it and walk away...  It is just another medium to display a book.

Nah, I'm just playing devil's advocate.

To be quite honest I don't think these are really anything THAT new at all. When I was a kid I had lots of books that came with records or tapes that read the books (and there was a "ding!" when you are supposed to turn the page.) I absolutely loved those.

What kind of feedback from parents have you been getting on these?
#21 - October 18, 2010, 06:57 PM

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Anyone can read the reviews of 'Icarus Swinebuckle' on iTunes but this was my favorite because this woman was really happy.
"Awesome!!!!!  (5 stars) by Gramma Connie-Honey  Aug. 4, 2010
This book is wonderful in so many aspects I don't know where to start. The narrator is wonderful. The animation and even the still artwork is beautiful. My six year old grandaughter can't wait to open it... she narrates and loves hearing her own her own voice. It's helping her with inflection when reading. Thank you so much for this amazing book-please do more of these!"

Keep in mind the work I presented in the iPad format is from a New York Times Best selling picture book author named Michael Garland - so the stuff is good to begin with.
We got rated top ten in ten different countries and were on the What's Hot List in 70 different countries.

People liked it :)
#22 - October 18, 2010, 07:22 PM

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Is it me or do picture books on e-readers just come off as boring versions of cartoons/programmes/movies? Watching this http://www.barnesandnoble.com/nookkids/?cm_mmc=Redirect-_-nookcolor-_-Storefront-_-nookkids.com just made me think I'd get annoyed that there wasn't MORE interactivity. It's like half-book half-game half-cartoon (except that would be thirds, but you know what I mean).

I'd love to know how kids respond to this kind of book, when compared to a cartoon or a paper book. I find it distracting, so I wonder if kids would just end up catching the berries, say, instead of actually wanting to hear the story?
#23 - October 25, 2010, 11:20 AM

giantatom

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I agree, a game with no purpose should not be put in an electronic picture book. In my opinion it's all about the Hebb rule... associate pictures with words to build brain synapse in the child. That is what reading aloud accomplishes. Pictures and words are associated and learning takes place. As the child matures the pictures are taken away and are instead fabricated in the mind. The reason picture books are valuable at a young age, whether electronic or print, is that children do not yet have a database of mental images to reference. Receiving images from the book (regardless of format) is essential to build the brain. Later on perceiving images is what makes reading books enjoyable for all ages.
#24 - October 26, 2010, 08:20 AM

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That's interesting. Has there been research on whether seeing words along with the spoken word AND other stuff moving about (ie the animated bits of an e-PB) disrupts that process of picture-word associations in the brain? Or whether it perhaps it enhances it? I know that trying to remember things in different ways - sight/smell/touch/etc - are supposed to make you remember things more easily, so maybe the animated elements of an e-PB might make a child learn even faster?

I wonder...
#25 - October 26, 2010, 10:17 AM

giantatom

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Objects moving on the screen are really there to create interest. Here are a few professors opinions: http://www.sciencenewsforkids.org/articles/20040121/Feature1.asp 

To display sounds, sites, smells (not possible yet), emotion... etc...  are the things needed to build brain synapses or learning. It must be two or more according to the Hebb rule.

So the key is to keep the child interested and stretch them to the next level. Where cartoons and movies fall short is that there is no interactivity and it is purely a receptive medium but even with that said there was a study done by the United States Government ... I think it was called 'Becoming a Nation of Readers' that showed SOME video is good for a child because it stimulates interest and involvement in the storyline.
#26 - October 26, 2010, 11:36 AM

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As a parent I prefer my kids to play outside or with their toys rather than using a computer. That said, I've been pleasantly surprised at how much my 3 year old has been able to learn about using computers and other e-technologies by messing around with his father's iPad. We've read several books on the iPad with him and the excitement that goes along with the technology keeps him engaged when he's in a mood where he otherwise wouldn't sit for a book. So that is encouraging. I also like the potential the technology has for interactive features along the lines of the old "Choose Your own Adventure" stories where you could modulate the story on-line.

As a (new) writer, I've self-published a couple of picture books on the kindle store and the nook store and in testing it out on my son the format works pretty well. I wouldn't let him hold the iPad but he's good at flipping from screen to screen and seems to enjoy to do so. I suspect it's just a matter of time before ebooks for all ages become more the norm.
#27 - June 27, 2011, 06:41 PM

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