Digital developments in children&#x2019;s publishing are now offering not only a complementary role to the printed word but potentially building audiences by engaging young readers in a variety of new and interactive ways. Kate Wilson explains why her company, Nosy Crow, will be publishing apps as well as books.
n February 2010, together with some colleagues, I announced the formation of Nosy Crow. Nosy Crow is a children&#x2019;s publishing company. We will publish books for children between the ages of 0 and 14 and also apps
that are reading experiences for children between the ages of 2 and 7.
What is an app?
&#x2018;App&#x2019; is short for &#x2018;application&#x2019;. An app is simply a little piece of stand-alone software. Over the last few years, it&#x2019;s gained popularity as a word because Apple has used it extensively to describe software programmes developed for the iPhone, the iPod Touch and the iPad. They have created an app store for people who want to buy new features and new content for their phones. Apps can be and do lots of things. You could have an app that enabled you to manage your personal banking from your phone; tweet or connect to facebook; shop online; or count calories. You could also have an app that was a game, or a book, or a film, or something in- between.
The kind of apps we are talking about in this article, though, are for use on a touch screen device, like an iPad or an iPhone, and the way that you interact with them is to touch different bits of the screen to prompt different things to happen. You could, for example, on an app of a text-only book, touch the screen to move from one page to another.
Some apps are free. Some apps are cheap. Some apps are expensive.
While Apple is currently the most important bringer of touch- screen devices to the market, there are already many others, and the number and variety will grow.
Apps are, I think, important to publishing for two reasons: first, people have become increasingly reliant on phones and other electronic devices and want to use them to do more and more things; and second, because people seem to be willing to pay for apps, they are a way to sell content, which is important, because it has not really been possible for trade publishers (as opposed to publishers who publish for the business, scientific, technical, medical or educational communities) to sell web content.
So why apps?
From the moment I saw a touch-screen device &#x2013; an iPod Touch &#x2013; I was excited about the potential for apps to become reading experiences for children.
The first thing that struck me was the immediacy of the experience relative to other screen experiences: when you touch the screen, something happens. As adults, we have
4 Books for Keeps No.186 January 2011 &#x2018; I think that, as
publishers, we shouldn&#x2019;t be trying to squash the books that already exist onto a phone. We should, I think, be creating reading experiences for touch-screen devices. The devices have the capacity for sound, animation and interactivity built into them, and we should use those capacities to tell stories in a new and engaging way.
And the fourth thing that struck me was that, now these things were in the world, they were unlikely to go away.
At The Bookseller&#x2019;s Children&#x2019;s Conference in September 2010, Justine Abbott, from Aardvark Research, shared some of her research about young children&#x2019;s engagement with digital media.
She talked about the fact that 28% of children under six have a television in their own rooms.
She said that pre-schoolers in her survey were watching television for over two hours per day.
learned that we can make something happen on a screen by fiddling around with a mouse or a keyboard or a remote control. But if you showed a computer to someone from Shakespeare&#x2019;s time, she wouldn&#x2019;t touch the keyboard, but (when she&#x2019;d got over her fear) would, I think, try to make something happen by touching the screen. If you type &#x2018;toddler using an iPad&#x2019; into google, you&#x2019;ll see two-year-olds using that device for the first time instinctively.
The second thing that struck me was how portable the devices were. I am a mother, and, when my children were little, I carried a huge bag that contained, as well as snacks and wet-wipes and a change of clothes, toys and at least five board or picture books. I realised that you could store hundreds of books in this tiny thing: an iPhone is approximately 12cm by 6cm by 1cm.
The third thing that struck me was how lovely the screen looked, and how beautiful colours looked on it. The backlighting that many people find annoying when they read texts on screen meant that colour images were lit up like little stained-glass windows.
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