E-Book for the Tater Tots

       NEW YORK — Two leading children’s publishers, Scholastic and Disney, will soon discover whether the laptop compares to the lap in the hearts of young readers.

       Scholastic is officially launching BookFlix, an educational website pairing short films based on popular picture books along with non-fiction e-books that allow early readers to follow the text online.

       For example, click on the bar that reads “People and Places” and you’ll find a pair of offerings on Abraham Lincoln: An animated film of a storybook, Jean Fritz’s Just a Few Words, Mr. Lincoln; and the animated image of a non-fiction work, Will Mara’s Abraham Lincoln, with children able to turn pages, backward or forward, by clicking on an arrow on the lower right- or left-hand side.

       Other books include such favorites as Jules Feiffer’s Bark, George, placed alongside Alyse Sweeney’s Pets at the Vet, and Syd Hoff’s Danny and the Dinosaur, featured with Susan H. Gray’s Dinosaur Tracks.

       “We’re so lucky to live in an era when kids can have books in multiple formats. Each format offers something that the
other doesn’t,” says Francie Alexander, Scholastic’s chief academic officer. “The e-book offers a wonderful ability for helping children learn to read — what academics call building ‘mental models.”‘

       Meanwhile, the Disney Publishing Group plans a similar project later this year, making favorites such as The Jungle Book and Cinderella available online. While Scholastic, for now, is sticking to the school and library market, Disney will offer books to general consumers, charging a fee, still to be determined, for downloads.

      “We saw a void in the marketplace and decided to act upon it,” said Jon Yaged, U.S. publisher of the Disney Book Group.

      E-books for early readers come as e-sales overall have been rising quickly, even if they remain a fraction of a
$35 billion dollar industry. The market for trade releases nearly doubled from 2005 to 2006, from $11 million to $20 million, and already totals $8 million in the first quarter of 2007, according to the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF), a trade and standards association.

       IDBF executive director Nick Bogaty said he had no statistics for the educational and library market, but believed the
numbers were at least triple those for commercial releases.

      “It’s starting to become real,” Bogaty said of growth in the digital market. “Publishers are starting to take this seriously.”

     Unlike a few years ago, e-books have users in high places within the industry, including Penguin Group (USA) CEO
David Shanks and Borders Group CEO George Jones. Yaged remains in transition.

    “I still prefer to read traditional books. … But if our program was available right now, I would be reading it to my
child,” said Yaged, who added that he was reluctant to call the new Disney releases “e-books,” instead favoring “digital books.”

   “There hasn’t been enough success with the e-book. We believe it’s better to call it something different.”

   Children’s titles have been a weak part of the e-book market. Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins are among those
saying they have no plans for digital texts designed for young people, while a Penguin spokeswoman said e-picture books are “part of the long-term plan,” but not “the immediate future.” The problem has always been a proper reading device; a laptop screen, a familiar sight for more and more children, could be the solution.

Scholastic, Disney opening the e-book – USATODAY.com

Check out that article for more on the future of e-books and the marriage of youth literature & media. Should prove interesting, yes?

Now if they combined this idea with the BRILLIANT September adventure otherwise known as “Spinebreakers.co.uk“– the online community for teen/”youth” literature, and make an interactive experience for kids of all ages (with some awesome moderation & screening & leadership from both a skilled community team and teens)… that would just be the best.  The learning & communication & entertainment would never end.

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Sorry about all the links today– got back from the UK last night and I’ve been catching up all day (since 4 am, thank god for jet lag)

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