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Don't Judge an E-book by Its Pixels... It's All About the Features

July 15, 2019

 

Time spent curling up with a good book is never wasted - whether that be on the warm sandy shores of the beach or on the hearth next to a crackling fire. As adults, there is little distinction between becoming immersed in the pages of a good book that we turn with our fingers or scroll through on a tablet or e-reader. For kids, the pages of an e-book can look quite different. Just like a traditional book, no two e-books are alike and multi-media features play a big role. Knowing what e-book features are available helps steer young readers towards books that align with their needs and interests. 

 

There's not a definitive consensus on what an e-book is, other than it's electronic. Merriam-Webster's Dictionary defines an e-book as "a book composed in or converted to digital format for display on a computer screen or handheld device." 

 

E-books contain a diverse range of features used to make stories come alive, increasing reader access, engagement, and participation. According to Cynthia Chiong, Jinny Ree, Lori Takeuchi, and Ingrid Erickson (2012), e-books range from basic to enhanced formats based on the features within them. E-books can be used on a variety of screen-based devices: (desktop computers, laptops, tablets, e-readers, smartphones) and utilize a variety of formats (CDs, web-based, YouTube, apps, etc.).

 

Basic e-books
Basic e-books are characterized as "simple digitized versions of print books" (Chiong et al., 2012, p. 1). Basic e-Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See?books may offer some special features; however, they don't overshadow literary elements. An example of a basic e-book is Brown Bear, Brown Bear read by Gwyneth Paltrow. The format is a digitized version of the book allowing readers to see the static pictures from the book and turn the page just like a traditional paper book. Gwyneth reads each page followed by animal noises and sound effects that don't distract from the story. 

 

Basic e-books are best for shared reading experiences where families and friends can read books together, talking about the pictures and story. Conversations surrounding books and basic e-books provide opportunities to build vocabulary and language skills, related to the story itself instead of the special features (Chiong et al., 2012). 

 

Enhanced e-books

On the other hand, enhanced e-books are highly interactive, full of special multi-media features. The Alice for the iPad app is a great example of the creativity and fun that these features can bring to a story. However, a study by (Chiong et al., 2012) found that while enhanced e-books may be motivating for struggling readers, so many multi-media features may distract readers from the story itself. 

 

What are these special features?

According to Guernsey, Levine, Chiong, and Severns (2012), the most popular features included in children's e-books and literacy apps are:

* Story narration where an author reads the story aloud

* Hotspots which are icons within the story that when touched activate other video and/or auditory features. These features could include animations, sound effects, word/picture labels, or a word definition.

* Music and sound effects

* Games and extension activities

Text highlighting in which the words of the story are highlighted or light up as they are being read by the narrator

* Picture animation instead of static pictures likes the ones found in traditional books

* Actions or special features that occur when the user tilts, shakes, or turns the device

* Voice recording allowing users to participate in the story 

* Language options allowing users to change the narrator's language (e.g., Spanish, French, Chinese, etc.)

* Tips and extension activities to foster parent involvement

* Opportunity for readers to earn rewards

* Social media options allowing users to share the story with others

* 3D effects

* Opportunities to take pictures using the device's camera

 

When it comes to selecting e-books it all boils down to what you are interested in reading and your reading goals. In order to find the best fit, evaluate how the e-book's features support your goals

 

If your goal is to read a story to your child and talk about the pictures and the story, then a basic e-book is the way to go. If your goal is to foster a love of reading and the power of stories, then an enhanced e-book might be the way to go.

 

Whatever you decide, create opportunities to share reading's magic with others! As Reading Rainbow pointed out,  lifelong readers can go anywhere!

 

Sources:

Chiong, C., Ree, J., Takeuchi, L., & Erickson, I. (2012). Print books vs. e-books: Comparing parent-child co-reading on print, basic, and enhanced e-book platforms. Retrieved from Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop website: http://www.joanganzcooneycenter.org/publication/level-up-learning-a-national-survey-on-teaching-with-digital-games/

 

Guernsey, L., Levine, M. H., Chiong, C., & Severns, M. (2014). Pioneering literacy in the digital wild west: Empowering parents and educators. Retrieved from http://www.joanganzcooneycenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/GLR_TechnologyGuide_final.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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