Ten writers for children. All with something to say.


The picture book app and Me

My Hornbook Magazine came in the mail yesterday and I was delighted to open up to Roger Sutton's editorial: "When A is for App". He asks some very interesting questions, ("so... when do we stop calling them books?") after observing a little girl clicking through a picture book app, page to page. Later in the article he observes how "book-bound" the apps are. The authors and illustrators featured in the app downloads he mentions, (Ruckus Media and Oceanhouse), wrote and illustrated for the printed page. How much input do they have when it comes to turning their books into apps? Should these large media outfits confer with author or illustrator when creating the apps? Or should they even consider using the editor who was deeply involved with the creation of the original printed picture book?

Here I will speak for myself. The author of my illustrated book, Castles, Caves, and Honeycombs, Linda Ashman sent me an email just last week with a link to an app for our book. I don't have a kindle or an iPad (yet!), but I immediately downloaded it to my iPhone and played around with it. "Played" is the keyword here. With all of the bells ringing every time you turn a page (go here to experience how Iceberg Kids apps work.) and the recorder to make your own voice reading the story, it becomes a toy, and not the intimate experience of reading a book. I applaud the opportunity to record a favorite uncle's voice reading the story-- or even the child's voice reading aloud to his or herself, but what then? Is the child put to bed with their iPhone/iPad reading to them? What happened to the warm lap or the comforting arm around the pajama-clad child? Not to mention the interaction between child and adult as they page through the picture book together. (Check this out to see that the picture book is alive and well. )To me, it is a toy. An educational toy. Would I have bought one for my kids when they were little? Yes, especially for long drives in the car. But there would also be the box of books in the car for them to leaf through at their leisure, forwards and backwards, again and again. And at home, there would be just as many books on the shelves, because books are books, and apps are toys.

In terms of conferring with the author and illustrator about the making of the app, here is my two cents: In the Castles, Caves, and Honeycombs app from Iceberg Kids, there is an automatic zoom from a close-up of the image to the overall spread after the words have been read. The choice of "close-ups" from which to zoom does not always make sense. Had I been consulted, I would definitely have had a few things to say about the visuals that would make a better flow of text and image for the user of this app. (Note: I say "user" rather than "reader"-- it is a different experience, and I say this with no judgement of good or bad. ) It is very early in the world of picture book apps, but I would call for the inclusion of the original illustrators and authors when possible, in order to make a more integrated experience of the original picture book. This would allow each app its own unique look, just like each picture book is unique. This would be more appealing than wrestling and pulling each picture book to conform to the format of the app which tends to be rather institutional in its aesthetic. But this would take the same careful attention an author, illustrator, editor, and designer give to each picture book. This would take time. And with the speedy growth of the eBook and Apps, I don't think this kind of time is possible.


My only experience with e-books is through the Kindle that my 77 year old mother-in-law just bought. She loves it, and as she is an avid reader, she uses it every day. She is the leader of a book club, and still uses "real" books for that, so she can turn the pages back and forth easily for discussion, but I'm sure that once she figures out how to do that on Kindle, she'll be blazing the way for her friends and family. Perhaps someday I will be the lucky recipient of a gift card, so that I can feel less guilty about buying a Kindle. :) The first thing I will do is order all of your books, and practice my e-book skills on them!!


On Digital Immigration...

It's hard to write about the ebook. I've seen someone's Kindle and it was cool. I wanted one. But did I want one to read books on or because it's the newest coolest gadget out there?
I was recently in Texas, doing some school visits. The library coordinator there was so smart. So Smart. And she had a couple terms I'd never heard before. Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants.
We potatoes are all Digital Immigrants. We have migrated to the digital age, the age of computers and ebooks, after living several decades on the Earth with nothing even close to computers. I remember how cool VCR's were, and who the first family was in my town to get one.
On the other hand, my children are Digital Natives. My youngest was two when we first brought a computer into the house. Does she remember life without a computer? Doubtful. Her life has consisted of one technological revolution after another.
As a Digital Immigrant, I still fight it sometimes. I like buying pens and writing in a notebook. Notebooks are a lot harder to lose than digital files. I like curling up with a hot drink and my library book, eating my sandwich and getting crumbs all over it, which I quickly wipe away. I'm a messy reader, I admit. I'm not sure ebooks would be as forgiving to this Digital Immigrant as the real ones have been...