Not long after our nephew was born, Sarah and our sister-in-law had a conversation about how different life will be for the baby than it was for them. He’ll grow up in a world of computers and cell phones as completely normal, and not something that was a novelty or luxury until college. They also discussed how he would read on ebook readers, and might not have textbooks in printed form by the time he goes to college. Yes, I am clearly influencing my family with my eBook-loving ways.
It’s not just idle chit-chat though. According to Boston.com, kid and young-adult oriented ebooks are growing rapidly, and with dropping reader prices and increasingly tech-savvy kids, the up and coming generation is a huge audience for B&N, Amazon, and competitors.
From the article:
In her pink bedroom in Wayland, Emma Levy keeps shelves full of books. But when the 9-year-old began her summer reading this month, she didn’t crack open a single one. Instead, she turned on her hot pink Kindle and downloaded “Ramona Quimby, Age 8’’ for $1.99.
“It’s easy,’’ she said. “If you want a book, you don’t have to wait to go to the store.’’
Her 12-year-old twin brothers, Will and Sam, recently got Kindles after seeing their sister glued to hers. They, too, have been riveted to their e-books, “The Firm’’ and “The Greatest Game Ever Played.’’
“I think it’s great,’’ said their mother, Karen Levy, of her children’s renewed interest in the written word. “I just hope it isn’t a novelty.’’
In many ways, that one excerpt nails all the reasons ebook readers appeal to kids. One, covers make your reader extremely individual. A hot pink Kindle is perfect for a little girl! While covers have existed for textbooks and even paperbacks, that’s not the same as a permanent accessory. Second, instant gratification is not just a novelty, it’s how all other forms of media are consumed. iTunes, Hulu, Netflix…when’s the last time you waited for a CD to arrive by mail, or waited in line at a Blockbuster on a Saturday night? eBooks have helped equalize the playing field for printed media against TV, movies, and music, and that’s apparent in the steady uptick of younger and younger owners of ebook readers. Finally, ebook readers are great for kids who have, let’s say, non-mainstream tastes. I have no idea why my parents didn’t try to stop me from bringing “Star Wars” books to middle school, but for the future geeks of America, no one has to know what they’re reading on that Kindle! No tell-tale cover to brand you a nerd forever.
Now, there is a downside here. I’ve said this before, tablets are expensive and relatively fragile. While reading a kids book together on a tablet is fine, it’s not something that’s going to be a solo activity until a child is old enough to be gentle. For that matter, even a Kindle or a NOOK is somewhat fragile. The first company to come out with a rugged, “my first ebook reader” type device is going to do extremely well, especially if it’s through B&N or Amazon and can be tied easily to a parent’s existing account.
How young is too young for an eBook reader in your view? And have your kids’ schools been encouraging reading on Kindles and NOOKs? Share any experiences in the comments!