The IPad: Children’s Toy of the Year
Apple knows how to take over a market. Their genius planning has led them to many technologic victories, but the latest advancement of their IPad tablet, has allowed Apple to take over all other tablets on the market, as well as beating the competition for electronic readers. Electronic readers have been on the market for a couple years now, getting more progressive with the additions of wireless internet, dictionaries, note taking and touch screens, however the screens remain to be black and white, and an adult baby booming market for book club novels. Apple’s website claims that the IPad is a tool that allows people to, ‘read, look and listen’, meaning you can, “download gorgeous, full-page illustrated children’s books, cookbooks, and art books. Flip through Enhanced Books, where you can hear an author read a favorite passage, watch supplementary video, or flick through a library of photo extras for the inside story. Or listen to a narrator bring a book to life with the read-aloud feature.” (Apple, 2011)
Picture books and children’s stories did not seem plausible, until of course Steve Jobs thought of a plan in December 2010, by making a major push into illustrated books, meaning cookbooks, photography and more interesting children’s books. Apple’s Ipad has taken the electronic reader to another level by introducing full colour picture books to a new market of young readers, children’s publishers, and overall defined an innovative experience for reading entertainment.
When the IPad was first brought out commercially, it was different from all other readers on the market because it was combination with a tablet, in colour, and each one came with a digital copy of the classic children’s story, ‘Winnie the Pooh’. The only difference between this version of the story is that for the very first time it was in colour. While the Nook color came out around the same time, the IPad immediately drew in techies and, for the sake of this argument, parents, for the pristine quality picture books that are displayed on a double screen. What this meant for other electronic readers out there is hard to say.
Other E-readers out there are solely just for reading purposes. The E-ink is reminiscent of paper and does not strain eyes like Apple’s tablet, which is comparable to a computer. Most electronic readers are compact and can only display one page at a time, they were not wireless or touch screen, and however companies have come out with these features since the IPad arrived. For other electronic readers out there, the IPad stands as a new median for what is to come, once again Apple is on the forefront of the tablet trend, making electronic reading more than just paperless, but a whole interactive experience. Therefore, the first generations of Kobos, Kindles and whatever else is out there, look extremely out of date.
Once customers are comfortable with the price, and trustworthy enough to have their children handle the equipment, the IPad is now seen as a family reader and sharing tool, as your children’s library is on just the one devise. In 2010 when the IPad was first brought out 10% of all book sales became digital. (Parent’s Choice Blog, 2011)
It seems as if Apple had not anticipated the IBookstore to take off as successfully as it did with booksellers having to pay a 30% toll for people customers buying books through their apps. Since then, the numbers have changed and contracts vary on publishers. (Parent’s Choice Blog, 2011) The question is, with a battery life, price and vulnerability in the hands of children, is the IPad kid proof? The answer of course, is by matter of opinion, but the way Apple is advertising, showing children practicing spelling, reading their favorite stories and having them also be read aloud; it looks as if it really is fun, and educational for the whole family. There’s a reason this tablet made, ‘Children’s Toy of the Year’. (PC World, 2010)
There are only so many publishing houses with the power to coincide with a company and bring business to a high level. This means that companies, like Apple, that bring out new technologies, have to work fast at developing ideas in order to pick up the best one for their brand and for their product to survive. Apple is no stranger to this and really took the picture book market on with full force by becoming affiliated with Disney Publishing. There are over 700 Disney Classics offered from Disney Publishing in the IBookstore as well as audio books. (E-Book Reader Blog, 2011)
By December 2010, Disney Publishing had reached it’s one millionth download from Apple’s Book applications with the more popular character titles being from, ‘Winnie the Pooh, Disney’s Princesses, and ‘Toy Story’. (NY Times, 2010) It wasn’t just Disney Publishing that set the IPad apart from any other reader, however that it one of the major reasons it has taken over children’s picture book electronic publishing. Apple also made contacts with, ‘Simon & Schuster’, known most famously for, ‘Olivia’, which was first ever published in the IBookstore, as well as HarperCollins, the Hachette book group, Macmillan and lastly, Workman Publishing. (NY Times, 2010) Apple’s slim competition currently is with Nook Color, Barns and Nobles coloured electronic reader, which owns the rights to the popular, ‘Fancy Nancy’ series, and ‘Amelia Bedilia’. (Parent’s Choice Blog, 2010) Transferring coloured classics has not been an easy task for publishers, as it has been a struggle to replicate the experience of reading a print book. What set Apple’s IPad apart was the two page format, which is rare in electronic readers, so children can see their book layout just like with paper, in vibrant colours with interactive features.
By grasping the niche market of picture books, Apple made an economic slam-dunk. The week the IPad launched, Publisher’s Weekly reported that children’s stories held 6 of the 10 top books paid for with the IBoostore App. (Publisher’s Weekly, 2010) As the children’s book industry becomes more accessible online, the quality of pictures appearing on readers is becoming easier, and looking like the excellence publisher’s achieve with print. While this is a great advancement, there is plenty of skepticism wondering, “From a reading point of view, the question becomes even murkier. Kids already get massive amounts of screen time these days. Is converting their favorite (and generally their first) reading experiences to a screen necessarily a plus? And as interactive children’s e-books become more popular, will kids still have the patience required to enjoy simple text and images?” (Christian Science Monitor, 2010) Publishers need to reach out to customers and make clear that by owning an IPad, children are not just reading on a screen compared to paper, but opening up a new experience of seeing their favorite stories come alive with character voices and games. It’s a different era of learning how to read.
The IPad is not only an electronic reader, but a learning tool as well, which makes the tablet ease into the children’s picture book market as perfectly as it does. Children and technology are a perfect fit, as it excites children and gets them to become more interested in reading. There are numerous positive aspects to children learning to read on the IPad, however compared to paper books, the IPad is designed to be more of a computer screen than other readers on the market. Electronic readers like the Kobo and Kindle were created to be just that and nothing more, there is no back lighting to strain your eyes, which is one of the problems with the IPad. Not only is the back lighting a problem for children’s, or anyone’s eyes, learning to read on paper is an old standard, that parents have trusted and treasured for years; where learning on the IPad tablet could go either way.
Yes, there are so many more interactive tools that can make learning to read more enjoyable, and perhaps less of a challenge for parents and children together with the help of these tools. With the enhanced reading games and activities, children can progress by tracing, listening and interactively follow along with their favorite picture book story on the IPad. Problems arise when the apps distract from the classic story in front of a child, or being more attracted to the games and technology than the words on the screen. There was a competition market for the IPad as a learning tool with Fisher Price. The problem with Fisher Price’s tablet was that it was designed after an IPod with a small screen. The Wall Street Journal review was that it was more of a hassle than anything else because as an electronic reader the font size, price and availability miss the mark. The failing of the Fisher Price tablet really made the IPad stand out as one of the best interactive learning tools for children and the vessel for kids books of the future. (WSJ, 2010)
Technology is always going to be moving forward, and this means more companies are going to try and compete with Apple’s IPad for the picture book market, but it may be too late. Kobo is about to introduce their version of a tablet, Kobo Pulse, and Amazon is also attempting the colour market with the Kindle Fire. Apple had such a head start and is working with the right publishers for children and picture books classics, that it’s hard to believe other companies, like Kobo or Amazon could respectfully compete in that sense.
There is much to be said about electronic readers and how they compare to one another, but as with any new technology, they are continuously evolving and information can quickly become out of date. Perhaps the only negative thing that can be said about Apple’s IPad in respect to children’s picture books is that, although it encourages children to read, who may have lost interest in paper books. Children can touch the screen and hear the word pounced without understanding the meaning, which can take the challenge out of learning for them selves. However, it is incredibly convenient, allowing children to carry multiple books at a time, and with creative applications, such as the ‘read aloud’; parents have a more interactive teaching tool at their disposal. (Multicity Baby Blog, 2010)
With 83% of the tablet market share in the United States alone, Apple’s innovation proves that this laptop killer continues to be awarded on best gadget gifts, and is the fastest selling technology in history. (Nichola Saminather, Bloomberg 2011), As an electronic reader, this tablet proved to be a wrecking ball in the children’s picture book market, and it doesn’t look like the competition it will be taken over any time soon.
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2) Elgan, Mike (March 11, 2010) “Why iPad is the ‘Children’s Toy of the Year’. Computerworld, http://www.pcworld.com/article/191074/why_ipad_is_the_childrens_toy_of_the_year.html Retrieved September 20th, 2011
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8) Griswold, Jerry (February 17th, 2010) “E-Readers and the Future of Picture Books. Parent’s Choice Blog. http://blog.parents-choice.org/?p=1309 Retrieved September 22, 2011
9) Kehe, Marjorie (December 15th, 2010) “Color E-Readers: Boon for or bane. Christian Science Monitor. http://www.csmonitor.com/Books/chapter-and-verse/2010/1215/Color-e-readers-boon-for-or-bane-of-children-s-books Retrieved September 22, 2011.