The New York Times recently ran an article about children’s books. The slant of the article was that even parents who love to read ebooks prefer to turn tangible pages with their children. In other words, even with all the new interactive children’s books, print books are still a big draw.
The article focused mostly on toddlers and prechool-aged children. It stated that “as the adult book world turns digital at a faster rate than publishers expected, sales of ebooks for titles aimed at children under eight have barely budged.”
One expert in the article felt that something is lost in a book when it is converted to digital format. This professor believes that size and shape become part of the emotional and intellectual experience of the child. I think he has a point.
When my husband and I created Baby Bible Board Books: Stories of Jesus (a set of books for infants and toddlers), we made each book 5×5 inches so that the size was just right for small hands to hold. While an iPhone is a great size for a young child to hold, most tablets are still too large for the younger children to manage.
I think some of the reason books for younger children have not taken off has to do with young children’s tendencies to destroy and lose things. Give a five-year-old an iPad and he will lose it within a week without constant supervision from an adult. I can’t tell you how many times I had to turn around and go back to some place we had just visited because one of my young children had accidentally left a toy or other attachment item. A $10 toy was not that big a deal if we never found it. A color tablet that cost a couple hundred dollars would be.
Let’s face it. Young children are not gentle. We have to teach them how to pet the family dog and not pull its ears or tail. Toddlers are prone to tantrums when they get upset. A three-year-old having a tantrum and throwing a book across the room usually does not cause a large monetary loss. The same child having a tantrum and hurling an expensive color tablet across the room is cause for alarm. Imagine your preschooler scribbling all over the screen of your iPad instead of on the wall with her crayons. The fact is expensive gadgets and young children are not compatible.
This is actually good news for publishers. If you publish books for children eight years of age and younger, it appears that print books sales will not cave to digital book sales anytime soon.