Saturday, February 4, 2012

New World of e-books, reprint, excerpt

Library directors debate merits of books that speak, offer video

Although most people know what electronic books are, they may not be as familiar with enhanced electronic books.

Enhanced e-books feature the traditional text, and in a children's book, pictures, but they have much more. Some have video clips, others have music. Children's books may have interactive, animated features that allow a child to play a game. Every children's e-book offers a read-aloud feature in which a recorded voice recites the text. Most offer the ability to tap a word to hear it spoken aloud, an aid for a child learning to read.

The most talked about children's enhanced e-book at the moment is "The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore," an app created by Moonbot Studios in Louisiana, which has been nominated for best animated short in the 2012 Academy Awards.

One of the newest is "Chopsticks" released on Thursday for a teenage market as both a traditional book and as an app for the iPad and iPhone. Readers can enlarge images, flip through photo albums, watch video clips, listen to the characters' favorite songs and read their instant messages. Readers can also shuffle the pages, re-creating the story as a custom version.

Of course, enhanced e-books are much more expensive to produce and more expensive to buy. Publishers are watching to see if these enhanced e-books become literary trailblazers or elaborate flops. Librarians are also monitoring the new art closely.

Eve Kline, director of the Somerset County Library, said enhanced e-books would be useful for adults and teenagers who do not or cannot read, as well as for children who are learning to read.

"Enhanced e-books do not replace reading as DVDs and the theater sometimes do, but rather extend the art of reading so that it can be appreciated and enjoyed," she said.

Amy Hanley, director of the Meyersdale Public Library, said her children love the e-books that allow the reader to record their own voice reading the book.

"My older daughter likes recording her voice and listening to herself read and when my younger daughter hears the book read to her, she starts to memorize the story. Even though she can't pick out the individual words yet, she has a basic idea of what happens on each page," Hanley said. "It's probably a nice change for them not to have mommy read to them all the time."

She thinks if the book is more fun and attractive, so to speak, that kids who may have had no interest in reading may become interested.

"I think it really boils down to the individual child and how they learn — if they learn better by listening, seeing or interacting," she said.

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