Why do Digital Storybooks Mostly Suck?

Recently at a convocation of publishers of children’s books, Nicolette Jones, children’s book editor for the Times of London, made this provocative statement: “I’ve never seen a picture book-app that does something that a book doesn’t do better.” This comment echoed through cyberspace at warp speed and has been discussed in numerous forums. Then, on October 12, 2014 on the front page of the New York Times came this article by Douglas Quenqua: “Is E-Reading to Your Toddler Story Time, or Simply Screen Time?”  with a lead of “Clifford the Big Red Dog looks fabulous on an iPad. He sounds good, too — tap the screen and hear him pant as a blue truck roars into the frame. ‘Go, truck, go!’ cheers the narrator.” Followed by the challenge “But does this count as story time? Or is it just screen time for babies?” These commentators are decrying the current state of “digital storybooks” the iPad/tablet incarnation of the picture book. The siren call of digital interactive picture stories has been around for a long time. In the 1990s many were created for computer screens that were to be distributed via CD-ROM technology. This “flash in the pan” disappeared so quickly that hardly anyone even noticed it. With the advent of the iPad, a new wave of digitizing has appeared and shows no sign of stopping. There are literally thousands of digital storybooks. Sadly, most of them are not very good.

Look for the rest of this story to come out soon in a different forum.


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