On Tuesday evening, BBC Radio 4’s Front Row broadcast an interview with me; with Henry Volans of Faber Digital; with a representative of new French company, Byook and with Philip Jones from The Bookseller. We were talking about enhanced ebooks and apps. And yesterday, Kirkus online published a (starred) review of The Three Little Pigs. A week or so ago, the Times Online blog, School Gate included The Three Little Pigs in a round-up of apps (it’s behind the paywall but you can see it here).
It’s great – really great – to have this coverage… but so far, though we’ve had a lot of really excellent online review coverage from bloggers and app specialist sites for The Three Little Pigs app, it strikes us – and fellow app developers certainly seem to agree – that that it’s a challenge to get reviews or features from established book critics in the traditional media (by which I mean established print newspapers and magazines and broadcasters) about apps and enhanced ebooks. From our perspective, this seems to be particularly true for one of the most exciting areas of digital publishing: children’s storybooks.
This is perhaps because the market, and therefore the readership, for apps and enhanced ebooks is in its infancy, and so, therefore, is the market and readership for reviews of apps and enhanced ebooks. But we think it’s also perhaps because there are no established criteria for judging an app or an enhanced ebook, and credible critics with deep experience in judging children’s stories have yet to emerge.
The truth is that no-one’s an expert in this rapidly-evolving area, but here are some questions that we ask ourselves when we are judging a story book app:
- Does it have child-appeal?
- Why is this story presented as an app, rather than as a printed book?
- How easy is the app to understand and navigate?
- Is the language, art and interactivity age-appropriate?
- How have the creators used the features of the devices to tell the story in a new and engaging way?
- How have the creators balanced the narrative thread of the book against the opportunities for interactivity?
- Has the interactivity been woven into the story in a meaningful way that enhances the story?
Frankly, we are more than grateful for any coverage and feedback that we can get, wherever it comes from. The App Store’s rate and review section offers an opportunity for us to hear back from real readers, and we also offer the opportunity within the app itself for readers to contact us to tell us what they think.
Less than a year on from the launch of the iPad, and only 18 months on from Winged Chariot’s launch of the first picture book for iPad, this evaluation and these conversations are only just beginning.