Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Digital Future?

I just "reserved my place in line" for the new Kindle 2.0. I've wanted one for a long time, mostly for traveling (I don't see myself curling up in bed at night with it). Interestingly, an article from Publisher's Weekly titled, Taking Steps into the Digital Future, discusses the likelihood of e-books becoming popular with kids. Below is an excerpt:

It's no secret that teens live online—Twittering, blogging, posting videos on YouTube and downloading from iTunes—or that most teens (80%, according to a national survey last fall) have cellphones. Together that adds up to a sizable potential market for mobile phone and Web-based e-books. Google and Amazon have no intention of ceding that business to developers of iPhone apps like Stanza. Earlier this month, they announced that they will provide e-content for mobile phones. Google will release 1.5 million public domain titles; Amazon will adapt books already in the Kindle format.

Like earlier technological innovations such as the Walkman, prices for e-readers will clearly drop. But for now, few teens can stretch their allowances to buy one. Nor is it likely that any of the e-readers on the horizon, such as the Plastic Logic 8½”×11” e-reader due out next year or the large-screen iPod Touch rumored for fall release, will be cheaper than, say, the current 8GB Touch, which has a suggested retail price of $229. And one of the most promising e-readers—a paper-thin, flexible electronic screen that can be rolled up and stored in a pocket—won't be available for civilians anytime soon; it is being developed to provide soldiers with lightweight access to maps and other printed material.

“We should worry less about the delivery system and more about inculcating sustained reading in kids,” says Michele Rubin, an agent at Writers House. “Books are something they should see as enjoyable.” No one is arguing. In fact, one scenario that publishers are exploring to raise the fun quotient is mixed media à la Scholastic's The 39 Clues (the series combines traditional books with online gaming and card collecting).

Patrick Carman's newly released ghost mystery, Skeleton Creek (Scholastic, Feb.), offers a book and dedicated Web site with videos, while The Amanda Project by Stella Lennon (HarperCollins, Sept. 2009) is even more ambitious. This mystery series, aimed at girls ages 12–14, brings together traditional print with Web games, social networking, blogs, music and merchandise.

Not that being online necessarily indicates success. One of the few successful children’s books to start out as a Web exclusive, Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Abrams/Amulet), didn’t really take off until it moved offline. It was initially “published” in 2004 on Funbrain.com and garnered more than seven million visits in a year and a half. Since Diary of a Wimpy Kid launched in book form in spring 2007, it and its three follow-ups have become enormous bestsellers, with a combined 11 million copies in print.

Read the entire article here. What do you think about the future of the e-book for kids?

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