Friday 6 January 2012

Children's picture books and Children's picture book apps

This week I read a very interesting article in Digital Book World called "Are children's e-books really terrible for children?" and a blog response from the Curating Book App Mom called "Ignore the discussion on book apps versus print apps". Both are well worth a read and express a lot of concepts that I have been thinking a lot about lately (ever since my first book apps Fierce Grey Mouse and Finn's Paper Hat came out and of course now also with our app No-dogs allowed, which I illustrated and was written by Phil Fryer).

When I talk to people about the apps, it is seems they don't really understand what they are. People tell me about the loveliness of a printed picture book and how it could never be replaced. The feel and smell of the pages, reading it together with children, the lovely hand drawn / painted illustrations, etc. And I agree with all that. I love books, I love the feel, smell, look and everything about them. In fact my house is full of books. But there is a bit of extra magic that we give in the app books. And it is not until I show people the apps on my iPad that they finally understand. They are often surprised to see that the stories are illustrated by hand and have the same look and feel as a printed book. They are surprised to see that they are "proper" stories that you can read with your child together. They also thoroughly enjoy the magic when they can make things move, add pictures, shake the iPad for effects, make stars appear, hear funny sounds that make the characters come to life, etc. Often by the end of the story I need to make sure they don't run off with the iPad, they get so enthusiastic about the whole thing!

Then there seems to be some prejudice against books on iPads, that they somehow should be bad for kids. That the iPad becomes some sort of "babysitter"for lazy parents. I personally don't think it becomes any more a 'babysitter' than a tv or computer game does. But there is a totally different side to this too. You can sit together with your child, switch off the narration and read it yourself and explore the interactivity together. There is an extra layer of play and fun that you can enjoy together with your kids  when reading a story on your iPad or iPhone. And yes, on long journeys or visiting your grown up friends, or if you are sometimes terribly busy, children can play with the app book on their own and listen to the narration and play with the extra's that most publishers give with the story.You can upload your iPad with lots of story book apps and still only need to take one device along on your trip, not a heavy mountain of books!

This brings me to another point, you get so much value for your money! Most, if not all, app books are cheaper than the printed books and usually you get extra games or colouring in pictures on top of the storybook! Still there are a lot of people out there that seem to think that apps should be free or cost next to nothing. How do they think we can continue to make the apps if we give everything away? Writers, illustrators, animators, developers and publishers are all humans and need to eat too! A lot of time and effort goes in the creation of the app books.

Maybe I am somewhat biased as my children's books have been published as apps. But I am truly proud of them and I think that together with Tizio BV we made something really special. There are such lovely children's app books about and so many truly creative people making an effort to create something wonderful and full of magic with every app book they make. 

Well, I get off my soap box now. I'm done with my rant. Thank you so much for listening (or rather, reading). Both "Are children's e-books really terrible for children?" and  "Ignore the discussion on book apps versus print apps"phrase it all a lot better than I have in this blog, but this has been on my mind a long time and reading the article earlier this week made me realise I had to get it off my chest!

And if after all this you would like some light hearted reading to recover from my rant, have a look at Fierce Grey Mouse's Uncle Horace's vintage book of great wisdom, my new cartoon blog.


  1. My own thought is, Why can't we have both!

    Me and my five year old daughter use print books when we are at home before bedtime, and e-books, apps, etc...when we are on the move.

    Either way she loves to read, loves the stories. I don't see why it has to be so either/or...

    And the lazy parent thing with electronic items? She'll just as happily sit in her room with printed books reading by herself not interacting with me for an hour or so, so isn't that the same as sitting in front of an ipad?

    In the end it's about the time you put in with your kids - not what they're doing. Sometimes we read, sometimes we play long as we're doing it together it's all good.

    I don't understand why people keep having this debate your app stories are beautifully done and the narratives are great...and print books are wonderful too. I want both! I'm voting for both!

  2. Thanks for your support on this issue Sasha! I so agree with you. I would like both too!

  3. Thank you Chantal, for your word and linking to my articles!

    Curating Book App Mom