Less than two years ago, few could imagine how much children’s literature would be transformed by tablet technology and the app revolution. Children can Pat the Bunny, Journey into the Deep and visit Richard Scarry's Busytown, all from their iPads.
Today, consumers can choose from a wide variety of children's-book apps, with features ranging from basic audio-visual elements to elaborate interactive components. The Austin, Texas, chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators recently sponsored a one-day symposium featuring numerous accomplished professionals in electronic publishing. The following recap offers a glimpse into how digital publishing may shift in the near future, and what readers can expect to be seeing.
Find some picture-book classics available now on iPad.
The Transformation of Picture Books to Apps – Children’s author Lindsey Lane explored how digital technology has established a way for authors to affordably republish out-of-print books, as she has been able to do with her book Snuggle Mountain, illustrated by Melissa Iwai; its digital edition, Snuggle Mountain HD, was made into an app by PicPocket Books. This assertion of electronic rights by authors has the potential to rescue countless books from out-of-print status and make them available to new readers.
YouTube and the Science Behind Visual Learning – Illustrator Joel Hickerson examined the unique potential that app technology has to transform learning experiences. He presented data and provided examples of how visual learning enhances comprehension, improves recall, increases creativity and boosts listening skills. Since the iPad simultaneously affords visual, auditory and tactile learning experiences, more and more educational publishers are likely to jump on the app bandwagon in the near future, joining the likes of Bobo Explores Light and The Magic of Reality.
There’s An App for That –Freelance artist Amanda Williams offered insight into the technical process of creating apps for mobile devices. Among other things, the presenter suggested that new digital-illustration programs are emerging at an increasing rate, giving artists a much wider palette of tools to work with. This will likely result in a more diversified assortment of visual approaches, increasing the spectrum of options available to consumers.
Storytelling in the Digital Age – Richard Johnson from Interact Books walked participants through creating a storybook app using the publisher’s online tools. Much like building a Blogspot or Wordpress blog by selecting various elements available in those specific platforms, authors and illustrators can create books by utilizing do-it-yourself templates. As the number of these self-publishing tools increases, look for more generic, entry-level offerings in the months to come.
Getting Discovered: Why You Should Absolutely Give Your Stories Away for Free – This session offered an examination of the “freemium” model. Citing a recent report from analysis firm Distimo, children’s author Bear James disclosed that a whopping 72% of all Apple iOS revenue comes from the 4% of apps that have in-app purchases. Publishers offer a “lite” version and then prompt readers to buy the full app once they’ve sampled it. As this business model catches on among developers, there will be many more opportunities for consumers to appraise storybook apps before purchasing them—and the frustration of getting into a story only to learn they have to get out their wallets to finish it.
If this symposium is any indication of what’s happening in the larger sphere of digital publishing for children, both authors and book lovers have a lot to look forward to. Stay tuned.