eBooks vs Books – Parents Should Give Children’s eBooks a Try

In the eBooks vs Books debate, no matter whether you call them traditional books, paper books, printed books or real books, the argument remains the same.

ebooks vs books debate with Willy Nilly

eBooks vs Books – where do you currently stand? I love reading physical books with my children. It’s enjoyable watching them scan through the bookshelf – or more accurately the pile underneath the bookshelf – for the perfect read. I like the character of a book, and how each read leaves some mark. A little tear here, a little fingerprint there… some vomit. I can’t see a future where I wouldn’t want physical books in my children’s world and I certainly hope that every one of my books will end up in a physical form in the future.

But I also like eBooks. And I know eBooks vs Books is a big debate for many parents.

In fact, we conducted a survey on reading habits with parents recently, and while I wouldn’t say we were surprised by the results, it was interesting to see just how negative the view is on eBooks. In fact, despite everyone having an eBook capable device, 50% of parents didn’t own a single eBook. The range of reasons was also interesting. An issue with screen time was one, and certainly valid, concern. The inability to find suitable options was a surprise. Some parents did not know how to get an eBook – if this is you, please read our step-by-step guide. But perhaps more concerning, especially from an eBook publisher’s perspective, was the belief that an eBook cannot be a shared experience.

The conclusion I drew from all the feedback was that one key ingredient was missing from the eBooks vs Books debate. The majority of respondents hadn’t experienced the full eBook experience. The assumption seems to be that all eBooks are just normal books, but on a screen. An image and some text, then swipe to turn the page. This is the base level of eBook experience – there is so much more.

Look for Digital Books Built for Digital Formats.

I can completely understand why a parent would believe that an eBook is just a book on a screen. When digital devices became a thing and traditional publishers began to move their books to the format, they did so in the easiest and simplest (and cheapest) way. In fact, some literally just used the exact same files. When you send a book to a printer to create a physical copy, you do so by providing each page as an individual high-res PDF file. You can just bundle those exact same PDF pages into a booklet and sell it as an “eBook” with ridiculous ease.

But it is not an eBook. It is just a book on an electronic device. There’s a big difference.

In the right hands, an eBook can use the digital medium to its advantage. The touchscreen, audio capabilities, internet connectivity, retina display, video embedding and animation capabilities are all available. So why not use it?

How Old Mate Media Builds True eBooks.

At Old Mate Media, we’re focused on creating books built from the ground-up for digital devices. The Willy Nilly series, for example, opens with a theme tune that plays over the cover. In The Fastest Kid in the World, pages come with sound effects that help create an atmosphere. Plus they provide a deeper learning experience for the child as they make sense of the scene. In A Very Strange Zoo, we use interactive pop-up text to allow each of the unique pieces of art to shine unblemished. Then the child can physically interact with the story to bring it up. In Can you See the Magic? we use animations to create a magic effect where one page merges with the other alongside the sound of a wand flourishing. Check out the video below to see how an eBook looks in full swing.

Note: At present these fully featured eBooks are only optimised for iTunes. Sadly Amazon uses a format for its eBooks that is not conducive to anything fancy. All our books are $5 or less, so it’s not a big investment to try them out if you want to see exactly how it works.

As mentioned, I don’t want to see eBooks replace physical book experiences. However, I would hate to think that children and parents are missing out on great reads for a lack of positive experience from traditional publishers. In fact, there are things we can do with an eBook that simply cannot be done in print. Amazing, exciting experiences you can share with your child.

eBooks vs. Traditional Books Case Study

After I had published my fifth book, I reached out to my children’s kindergarten to see if I could do a reading. I’d really been looking forward to the day as I knew it would be a big deal for my five-year-old and three-year-old. Plus I’d get to road test the story on a large group of children at the same time. First I did my eldest child’s class, with 20 kids. We sat down and the children were attentive all the way through the first book, The Fastest Kid in the World. They yelled for a second book, so I read My Birthday Cake Needs a New Home. Then for a third, so I ran through A Very Strange Zoo.

We then did question time, and hands went up everywhere. No sooner had I got through them all that they asked for a fourth book. My throat dry, I volleyed back a question and asked if anyone wanted to come up and try a book. I got jumped on by the whole class, so laid my iPad on the ground and they swarmed around it. I used the distraction to ask the teachers how it went, given I had no basis for comparison. Wonderfully, it turned out. They said that with the physical books, they can rarely get the whole class to stay attentive for one whole book, let alone three in a row.

At my youngest child’s class of around 15 kids, I got through two books before temperaments fizzled. But the teachers were quick to inform me it was a record for that age group. This experience, and others that have happened since, show just how engaging an eBook can be. It has a wow factor, when designed correctly, that the kids simply love.

Where to Next?

For a more in-depth breakdown of the eBooks vs books debate, head to 16 Ways Children’s eBooks Can Improve on Traditional Books.

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2 Comments

  • Veronica says:

    Wonderful post on ebooks. I’ve only just started reading ebooks to the children in my care in the last 6 months and have generally found them disappointing. Children like to point out features in a book that excite them. ( like the little bird in the corner etc) every time they touch the screen the page turns which is very frustrating. Our favourite books are interactive, touch and feel or press the corresponding sound which is hard with an ebook. Looking forward to learning more about your books

    • Chris Stead says:

      Thanks Veronica. The screen touching aspect is definitely one you need to conquer with an eBook. In ours you have to swipe, which is a more deliberate movement. But we also try to make the things you touch on the screen do something. One of the books in particular – Can You See The Magic? – which has a real magical effect when you press the spinning wand on the screen is massively engaging. If you read it to a few kids at once, they all want to be the one who gets to tap it. Other aspects of digital that I find hugely impactful is the use of audio. The Willy Nilly series has a theme tune, and I am surprised by how often the kids sing the song when the book first opens up. There will always be a place for books, but if you do eBooks to make the most of the platform, they can provide their own, unique experience.

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