I'm sitting in Sylvia's room, watching her pull all her books off her little bookshelf. She pauses as she comes across Where's Spot?, her favorite lift-the-flap book of the week. "Is Spot under the bed?" I read aloud and ask her.
"No!" She exclaims as she lifts the blanket flap
"Is Spot under the table?"
"No way!" She says with a dimpled smile even before she lifts and slightly tears the paper tablecloth flap.
It's amazing to see Sylvia interact with the pages of these books with such excitement. As a producer of interactive multimedia at FableVision Studios, every time I watch Sylvia physically interact with these lift-the-flap books, I immediately start imagining how to transform them into a digital e-book app for the iPad…that's just the way my mind works these days. It's hard for me to put away the silverware from the dishwasher and not think about how it would make a fun digital sorting and classifying game too. And these lift-the flap books just seem perfect for the digital tablet medium. I can easily picture Sylvia's excited smile upon touching the tablecloth on the iPad and watching it animate to reveal one of Spot's friends.
But this begs the question: if Sylvia is having such a great time--if she is truly interacting with the physical book--does she even NEED an e-book version?
Many people would say flat out NO, as loudly and as triumphantly as Sylvia does before even lifting the flap. I'm of a different camp. I'm a loud and triumphant MAYBE. I don't believe Sylvia really NEEDS an e-book, but I do think that at some point in her development, she would definitely enjoy it. And I think she would have a whole different experience interacting with an e-book than she would with a physical book.
One of the best pieces I read about Steve Jobs after his death mentioned that he didn't see a point in doing something unless you were going to make it special. I feel like that is also a driving force behind the work we do at FableVision. Here at FableVision Studios, we like to use technology to give children and adults new experiences that make the best use of the capabilities and affordances of a particular media platform. And we always keep in mind that we shouldn't be replicating the same experience a user could have on another medium. We make it special and different and unique.
As a parent and a multimedia producer, I believe in balance. I wouldn't want to deprive Sylvia of the joy of lifting a physical flap to find Spot in one of her physical books. So why would I want to deprive her of a whole different experience--a digital one--that will bring her joy in a whole new way? Right now at, 14 months, she is still figuring out gross and fine motor control, so I believe physical books are the best thing for her educational development. But when she gets to a point where digital books will be exciting and fun for her, I won't hide them from her. I will just make sure that whatever I expose her to is fun and, of course, special.
Here's a video of Sylvia and me reading one of her favorite books, Llama Llama Red Pajama. Watch at 2:45 where I read the word "kiss" and Sylvia reacts by actually kissing the page. How's that for interactivity?