by Gale Pryor, Ruckus Media Contributing Writer
Last week, Mike Shatzkin, publishing consultant and blogger at The Shatzkin Files, wrote a post reversing his stand that enhanced e-books aren’t likely to catch on because books provide “narrative reading experiences not intended to be interrupted.” Now, says Shatzkin, “In fact, I’m beginning to think that enhanced ebook or app-type delivery could overwhelm books as a container-of-choice in a pretty short time. Single digit years.”
Why the change? Children and touch screens. With touch screens, even toddlers can enjoy an e-book as easily as they flip pages of print books. Because they’re not yet fluent readers, says Shatzkin, they don’t mind when their reading is “interrupted by enhancements,” games, animation, accelerometer tilts, and other digital dynamics. “The younger you are, the more likely you are to accept the interrupted reading experience,” he concludes.
At Ruckus Media, we agree with Shatzkin. Touch screen technology has opened the door to extraordinary new ways to tell stories for children. “Enhanced e-books” is a pretty dry term for really wonderful apps in development, and apps for children are leading the way. When authors like Jon Scieszka, Rosemary Wells, and Alan Katz are excited about the new creative dimensions now open to them, so are we.
On the other hand, we don’t believe that the future of children’s apps is bright because, unlike the rest of us, kids who can’t read yet don’t mind having stories “interrupted” by elements extraneous to the text. At Ruckus, we are developing original apps for children in which text, art, sound, and touch are all part of the story. What a child makes happen on the screen is integral to the story. It’s an utterly new form of story telling.
We are working with the very best writers and illustrators and software designers because we believe that children recognize quality. Sure, you say, thinking of your six-year-old’s love of junk food and bad jokes. Yet consider the books, movies, and toys that have endured and continue to engage children, every one wonderful in some way. Ruckus exists to create enduring, high quality children’s reading and entertainment. Our format happens to be touch-screen mobile devices. Through our apps, children discover the pleasure of immersive reading long before they become fluent readers, and long afterward. Whether immersed in an app or a book, they will know the joy of total engagement in a terrific story.