A great article in the NYTimes talks about a boom in e-books sales for kids and teens, possibly spurred by holiday e-reader gifts.
*approximately a year, which is 7 years in internet-time
This is what I had to say in November 2009:
I think teens and adults will lead the charge, but will children’s books be far behind? Picture books will always be around, with their glossy pages and gorgeous illustrations, but how long will it be before the kids want their own nook? They’ll curl up at night with their small screens, their own library of e-books just a finger-touch away.
I’m thinking a year or two, 2014 at the outside.
I should have stuck with my first estimate of a year, because a mere 15 months later, e-books are 25% of all sales of teen books in January, picture books are showing up on iPads, and “tweens and teenagers (are) clustered in groups and reading their Nooks or Kindles together.”
Rather than resting on my prediction laurels, I wonder how this will change the way children read. I’m not talking about screen-time (e-ink is no harder on the eyes than paper) or attention span (Angry Birds anyone?). One problem that a blogger friend is already facing is that children have access to books of any kind and number with the touch of a button. In order to protect your pocketbook, and the innocence of your son or daughter’s childhood, you might want to keep an eye on the books that they download. But this easy access may break down a barrier that parents and publishers alike take for granted: the fact that children usually have gatekeepers to select their reading material.
I wonder if removing the gatekeepers, giving children essentially the world’s library at their fingertips, will lead to more reading.
I think the answer has to be yes. Variety, after all, is the spice of life.
Although I let my boys roam the library and bookstore, looking for books in the children’s section, those books have been pre-selected by librarians and bookstore owners. When children have access to the internet, to book blogs and Nooks, will they do more of their own decision-making? Will they seek out and try new things, or will they still rely on the adult gatekeepers to guide their reading?
I’ll venture to predict that children will begin to drive their own sales, as they have the ability to search and find exactly what tickles their fancy. Given that the main reason kids stop reading is because they can’t find anything they enjoy, we may see a sweeping increase in young readers. Publishers will start to market directly to kids, via an e-reader that has straight access to their eyeballs, just as sugared cereal manufacturers know to advertise during Dora the Explorer.
Is this good, or part of the e-pocalypse? I’m not sure, but I’m willing to bet an ice cream that it will happen whether we like it or not.
And this time, I’m sticking with my first instinct: it will happen within a year (ok, maybe two).