For their children, many e-book fans insist on paper

Print books may be under siege by the e-book boom, but they have a nagging hold on one particular group: children and toddlers. Their parents insist that this next generation of readers spend their early years with books the old fashioned way.

This is even the case with parents who are die-hard downloaders of books to Kindles, iPads, laptops and phones themselves. They freely recognize their digital double standard, saying that they want their children to be surrounded by printed books, to experience turning physical pages while learning about shapes, colors and animals.

Parents also say they like to snuggle up to their child and a book, and worry that a shiny gadget will get all the attention. Plus, if little Joey is going to spit, a book may be easier to clean than a tablet.

“It’s intimacy, the intimacy of reading and touching the world. It’s a wonder she reached a page with me, ”said Leslie Van Every, 41, a loyal Kindle user in San Francisco whose husband, Eric, reads on his iPhone. But for their 2.5-year-old daughter Georgia, books of dead trees, piled up and strewn around the house, are the only option.

“She only reads print books,” Ms. Van Every said, adding with a laugh that she worked for a digital company, CBS Interactive. “Oh, shame.”

As the world of adult books goes digital at a faster rate than publishers expected, e-book sales for titles aimed at children under 8 have barely budged. They represent less than 5 percent of total annual sales of children’s books, according to several publishers, compared to more than 25 percent in some categories of adult books.

Many printed books are also purchased as gifts, as the delicacies of an Amazon gift card are lost on most 6-year-olds.

Children’s books are also a bright spot for traditional bookstores, as parents often want to flip through an entire book before buying it, which they usually can’t do with browsing e-books. A study commissioned by HarperCollins in 2010 found that books purchased for children ages 3 to 7 were found frequently at a local bookstore – 38% of the time.

And here’s a question for a debate in the digital age: Do you lose something by taking a picture book and converting it into an e-book? Junko Yokota, professor and director of Center for teaching through children’s books at National Louis University of Chicago, thinks the answer is yes, because the shape and size of the book is often a part of the reading experience. Wider pages can be used to convey large landscapes, or a larger format can be chosen for stories about skyscrapers.

Size and shape “are part of emotional experience, of intellectual experience. There are a lot of things that you can’t standardize and paste into an electronic format, ”said Ms. Yokota, who lectured on how to decide when a children’s book is best suited for digital or print format.

Publishers say they are gradually increasing the number of printed picture books they convert to digital, even though this is time consuming and expensive, and developers have been busy building interactive children’s book apps.

While the arrival of new tablets from Barnes & Noble and Amazon this fall is expected to increase demand for children’s e-books, several publishers have said they suspect many parents would still prefer print versions.

“There is definitely a predisposition to print,” said Jon Yaged, president and editor of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, which published “The Pout-Pout Fish” by Deborah Diesen and “On the Night You Were Born” by Nancy Tillman. .

“And the parents are the same who will have no qualms about buying an eBook for themselves,” he added.

This is the case in the home of Ari Wallach, a tech-obsessed New York entrepreneur who helps companies update their technology. He reads on Kindle, iPad, and iPhone himself, but his twins’ room is full of only printed books.

“I know I’m a Luddite on this, but there’s something very personal about a book and not about a thousand files on an iPad, something connected and emotional, something that I am using. grew up and that I want them to grow up with. ,” he said.

“I recognize that when they are my age it will be difficult to find a ‘dead tree book’,” he added. “That being said, I think learning with books is as important a rite of passage as learning to eat with utensils and being clean.”

Some parents don’t want to make the switch, even for their school-aged children. Alexandra Tyler and her husband read on Kindles, but for their 7-year-old son Wolfie, it’s all in print.

“In a way, I think it’s different,” she said. “When you read a book, a real children’s book, it engages all the senses. It is teaching them to turn the page well. You can smell the paper, touch it.

There is a lot of software that claims to help children learn to read, for example by saying a highlighted word or picture aloud. Not all parents adhere to it; Matthew Thomson, 38, an executive at Klout, a social media site, tried such software for his 5-year-old Finn. But he thinks his son will learn to read on paper faster. Plus, the bells and whistles of an iPad become a distraction.

“When we go to bed and he knows it’s time to read, he says, ‘Let’s play Angry Birds for a bit,’” Mr Thomson said. “If he’s going to take the iPad, he’s not going to read, he’s going to want to play a game. So the reading concentration goes out the window.


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