I presented at the Bookseller Children's Conference last week and it was a very interesting day, with lots of engaging speakers. One of the biggest issues that came out of it was whether book apps are a good thing - Nicolette Jones, children's editor of the Sunday Times was somewhat scathing about apps, although she did say that she thought the way forward was to create apps that gave lots of information around the story, as the excellent War Horse does. In her opinion too much interactivity takes up the space in your imagination that you would be using with a classic picture book. Nosy Crow's Kate Wilson wrote a very passionate piece giving an alternative view and Phillip Jones gave a viewpoint from the publishing industry and I've been thinking about my take on apps vs books. I heartily agree with Nicolette about how fantastic War Horse is, the extra content makes it an invaluable resource for any school , but I don't think some interactivity spoils the story, as long as it is done properly. I thoroughly dislike book apps that take children away from the main story to play games - if I am encouraging them to read the book, I want to keep them enthralled in the tale, not rushing to go to another part of the app for gaming. If the interactive elements are included as part of the story however I don't have a problem with it, I myself quite enjoy 'added extras'. Not all apps do this well naturally but I have yet to find anyone of any age that is not completely enthralled by The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore and fails to finish the story. I can see the argument that apps can make a story disjointed but app developers are working hard to improve reader experience, the story in the Captain Underpants app for example seamlessly continues in an unending flow of pages and is beautifully designed. Apps are just fantastic for motivating those 'won't read' kids, they don't notice a lack of using their own imagination because they are so 'book phonic' in some ways that seeing the story unfold in their head is a completely alien experience for them. I often have my daughter's young godsons to visit and before bed they like nothing better than cuddling up to auntie Bev (it's as easy to be cuddled whilst holding an iPad as it is when holding a book!) and being read Nighty Night which is a wonderfully calming bedtime story app that they probably know every word of by now but which they still want to hear again and again. That's not to say they don't enjoy being read physical books, of course they do but they want both, it's not an either/or choice. Then there are apps that don't tell you the story at all but complement the picture book, like the Very Hungry Caterpillar, you would need to read the book first before using the app but it just extends your enjoyment of well loved classic.
From a publisher's point of view it may seem pointless to release apps into app stores that are full to bursting with apps and that are almost impossible to navigate (I stand by my view that all app stores are in dire need of a librarian to sort them out!) but unfortunately app books that are good quality are few and far between. Schools, parents and children are very keen to read wonderful tales in app form - better targeted advertising would help them find them.
The last point I'd like to make is that we are seeing these books through the somewhat jaded eyes of adults - the children that are read or themselves read these book apps invariably greatly enjoy the experience and personally I don't care if they read on paper, on a tablet, from a comic or on a mobile phone - as long as they do read - all and any reading is of value and helps to extend the imagination and give them a reading habit to comfort, amuse, delight and amaze them for the rest of their lives.
My blog is a collection of thoughts and I hope you will learn something about me from the ramblings as well as finding some useful links. I'm Bev Humphrey and I'm a Literacy, School Libraries and Technology Consultant. I am self employed so views expressed are solely my own.