June 20, 2012. Vancouver Sun
Slate’s Farhad Manjoo, one of my favourite tech writers, had an interesting piece earlier this month comparing children’s books on iPad to the old, ink-on-paper variety. His conclusion: Paper books kick iPad’s ass.
To a kid, a physical book is much more versatile, and ironically more interactive, than a tablet—you can open it to any page, you can drop it or bang on it or step on it, you can draw on it, you can rip out a page and tear it and crumple it up. … On an iPad, meanwhile, a shelf of books represent just a few apps out of thousands, none of them as compelling as warping your own face in Photo Booth.As Manjoo rightly points out, interactive kids books on iPad are more like video games than they are like books — and that encourages kids to get distracted easily if there isn’t always something bright and flashy on the screen to watch.
I’ve noticed this with the Older Boy, now four. When we’re reading a book on iPad, he’ll often frantically tap the screen, with no real goal or purpose, just hoping to generate some kind of noise or action. In contrast, he can sit still for a good half hour, snuggled close, if I’m reading him stories from a paper book. Reading paper books is a far more relaxing activity.
The other key difference between iPad books and real books is that real books require more active investment of time on the part of parents.
I can hand the Older Boy my iPad for a few minutes and he can entertain himself with The Monster at the End of This Book for a good 15 minutes while I do something else.
But if he brings me a paper book to read, I need to stop what I’m doing, sit down and give him my full attention. I think kids realize that reading paper books — unlike electronic books — comes with their parent’s undivided attention, which makes the activity more appealing.
I’m not against kids having iPad time at all (and neither is Manjoo). As I wrote in an earlier post, I’ve found some great educational apps for the Older Boy, including one that’s really helped him learn how to write his letters.
But I think when it comes to reading to kids, paper books are still the clear leader
Thanks to John McIntyre of the Childrens Bookshop in Wellington for bringing this story to my notice.