In the eBooks vs Printed Books debate, you will be surprised by how many ways a good eBook can improve on the traditional reading experience.
Don’t be lulled into thinking that an eBook is just a print book in digital form. A good eBook should offer an enhanced experience that makes the most of its digital home. But sadly, many publishers take the easier and cheaper route of just making their traditional printed book available in digital form. It’s a shame, as eBooks are better at offering deeper and more immersive experiences for parents and children. Parents should give children’s eBooks a try, but we know most of you aren’t so inclined.
In fact, our recent survey indicated that 50% of parents don’t own a single eBooks, despite owning an eBook capable device. When it comes to eBooks vs Printed Books, there’s many reasons why parents opt for the latter. But it also appears that a lot of those reasons result from uninspiring experiences with eBooks of lackadaisical design. Here are a few ways in which a well-designed eBook can offer something a traditional physical book cannot.
eBooks vs Printed Books – Have You Considered This?
The most obvious benefit of using a touchscreen instead of paper is the way you can interact with the book. I like to use icons scattered through the pages of my books that are used to activate the text. When the child taps the icon, the text box pops up. This engages the child and reader in multiple ways. Initially it allows the full image to be displayed when first opened, so you can soak up the entire scene and provide more detail. The children then love to find the icon and tap it to bring up the text. Playing little guessing games and giving instructions – like, “it’s in the bottom left” – is part of the fun.
2. Helps With Early Learning Teaching
You can also use the interactivity to help further your child’s early learning growth. One of the syllabus requirements for teachers in Australia involves hiding the text when a page is first turned. The child is then asked to describe what is happening in the scene and what the characters are feeling based on the art. The text is then revealed and the story continued. I have had a number of teaches tell me that the pop-up text function of my eBooks works wonderfully at facilitating this process. You can even zoom in on certain areas of the images to ask specific questions about details in the art.
3. Choose Your Own Adventure
An eBook does not have to follow a linear trajectory from start to finish. The fourth book in the Willy Nilly series, which will be out very soon – sign up to the newsletter if you’d like to be notified of its launch – is a choose your own adventure. In the story, Willy finds a treasure chest filled with magical hats. Each time he puts one of the eight hats on he is transported to an environment that befits the headpiece. So the pirate hat transports him to a pirate ship, for example. What I have done is design the book so that the child can choose which order he taps the hats. The book then seamlessly jumps forwards and backwards through the book as the child makes their choices.
It’s a fantastic experience to share with your child as they love flicking between the scenes. It feels quite magical, plus you can stimulate their memory with prompt like “which one next?” and “have you seen them all?” I can’t wait to release this book. In the eBooks vs Printed Books debate, this experience is a huge tick for the former.
4. Sound Effects
Audio is always the forgotten hero of the entertainment world and it’s next to non-existent in traditional books. With eBooks, however, you can use sound to further make fantasy scenes relatable to the children. For example, in The Fastest Kind in the World, I have sound effects that play when you turn to certain pages. For example, there’s a scene where Willy and his dad visit the park, so the sounds of playing children occur in the background as you read. And in another image there is a helicopter, so the sound of the blades twirling bursts from the speakers. The kids adore the sounds, and will go back to pages in the story just to hear them.
5. Advanced Audio
It’s not just simple sound effects. I made a theme song for the Willy Nilly series, and it plays when you turn on the eBook and the cover appears. The kid’s love it, and both my offspring - and those of friends I speak to - dance and sing to it every time it plays. You can also add narration. I’m in the process of getting my stories read and recorded live, so I can retrofit them to existing books. Then I will simply provide a small icon discretely on each page for the child to press and have the story read to them. When comparing eBooks vs Printed Books, it's very handy if you’re unable to read to them for whatever reason.
This is where the magic of eBooks can really happen. Elements on the screen move and behave in different ways depending on what is required for the story. In Can You See The Magic? I combined multiple animations to help not only create a magic effect, but do so in a way that really engaged their young imaginations. It’s challenging to describe, but I did a quick video - which you can see below - that shows exactly how it works. I created a spinning wand, fading images and sound effects to transform images like magic right before kids’ eyes. When it comes to eBooks vs Printed Books, Can You See The Magic? is half the experience as the latter.
The result of using these design features to maximise the “e” in eBook is unparalleled engagement and immersion. The children are not just seeing the images, they are hearing them. They are not just static, but that can be pressed and moved and jiggled. By engaging sight, sound and touch all at once, the world comes alive. And by providing little puzzles that use the brain, the kids really go with the story.
8. Direct Access to the Greater Universe
Digital eBooks can also be connected to the internet. I can imagine you might have some trepidation about this, but it’s not an open portal into all the web has to offer. Instead in our books we provide direct links to other parts of the universe for those who want more. This could be something as simple as colouring-in pages to print out or the next book in the series. Or meatier content like “making-of” stories and character profiles.
9. You Can Connect with the Author
You can also be directly connected with the author. My books all have links straight to my personal email address and social profiles, so you can instantly connect. eBooks allow for a relationship between the author and the reader because the barrier between contact is literally a tap away. With eBooks vs Printed Books, in the former there are usually no agents, publishers or PR in-between.
10. It can Adapt Over Time Easily
The process of making a change to an eBook is a relatively simple one. Based on reader feedback, we can easily tweak the books to offer a more enjoyable experience for the parent and the child. But we can also add in information about fun giveaways, or new books in the series, to keep everything up to date and fresh. Obviously, you cannot do that with print. It stays as it is forever.
11. Endless Digital Exclusives
There are hundreds of thousands of picture books available that you cannot buy in physical book stores. Amazing, high quality experiences that are quick, easy and cheap to acquire. If you’re anything like me, you’re getting sick of a large portion of the books you’ve been reading for years to your kids. There is only so many physical copies you can have, and children always seem to choose the same stories. And as well as finding new tales and new authors, you can also find books from other cultures that never make it your shores.
12. Fantastic when Travelling
Obviously lugging around a pile of heavy, physical books when travelling is not ideal. You could have a thousand books on your digital device, however, which can keep them entertained for hours. It’s also handy to just have a book accessible in your pocket no matter where you are. Like waiting at the doctors or stuck in traffic. “Here, read this!” And off they go on a reading adventure while you focus on the task at hand. When on the road, eBooks vs Printed Books is an easy choice.
13. Much harder to break
Is there anything more frustrating than finding one of their favourite books ripped and torn? The kids just love destroying things! Flap books are the worst; they love the experience, but within weeks at least one flap has been torn off and discarded. Well digital books are a lot harder to break. Obviously they exist on expensive technology, but these devices are pretty robust nowadays and most are even waterproof. You really have to throw them to hurt them.
14. A Great Shared Experience.
I was surprised by feedback from parents concerned about eBooks not offering a shared experience. With all the interactions, animations and sounds we put into books, they’re great fun to read with the kids. Modern screens also have such a high resolution, they are easy to read from a distance and at an angle. As mentioned in our case study, I have read my books to groups of 20-plus children on an iPad and everyone in the room has been engaged.
15. eBooks are Cheaper to Purchase
While hard cover books can cost upwards of $20, picture eBooks rarely cost more than a coffee. We’ve priced all of our books under $5 and we’re looking to bundle them in the future to make them even more attractively priced. Considering you get all the added features mentioned above within that price, it’s pretty good value. Plus you can usually get a collection of brand new, top quality eBooks for around $10.
16. An eBook is the Green Option
Perhaps this is the most obvious point in the eBooks vs Printed Books debate, but it still needs to be said. No trees were harmed in the making of my eBooks. And there’s no waste product either. While we know from our survey that many of you make a green choice to use libraries or second-hand stores to boost your child’s book collection, did you know that children’s books are one of only two genres in print that are growing. (The other is cookbooks.) So if you are conscientious about the environment, it’s an eBook that has the less impact on the future world of our children.