This post will discuss a realization I had even before this morning’s news about the developing e-products scene. I’ve always been a skeptic about enhanced ebooks, based on seeing my hunch that they wouldn’t work come true 15 years ago with CD-Roms. But it is increasingly obvious that CD-Rom type thinking will work very well for kids’ books. 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.
The reasons that I’m skeptical about enhanced (or enriched, a recent term I’ve heard that might be better) ebooks is because most adult books are written as narrative reading experiences not intended to be interrupted and now being read by people who value the immersive experience. (Not all. But most of the kind we think of as bestsellers or literature.) My guess is that it is going to be hard to shift many of the hours of consumption now devoted to immersive reading to something quite different. And I see that as a qualitatively different challenge than moving immersive reading itself from one delivery mechanism (paper) to another (screens.)
The reason that kids’ material didn’t survive the CD-Rom period 15 years ago was the complexity of the delivery mechanism. You had to be at a computer, which usually meant a desktop computer. You had to load the CD-Rom, which on most computers (because few then were Macs) required additional navigation before they would play. These products just weren’t really accessible to kids, even if the programming they contained was designed for them.
But those reservations just don’t hold for kids’ “books” (if that’s what you call them) migrated to the iPad, a smartphone or, now, the NOOKcolor (which, I think, is how its owners would like us to spell it.)
The degree to which you can immerse yourself in a book is directly proportional to the fluency with which you read. That means that the younger you are, the more likely you are to accept the interrupted reading experience.