On launch day lastSaturday, Apple sold more than 300,000 iPads—and users downloaded more than onemillion apps and more than 250,000 ebooks from the iBookstore. Parents immediatelystarted snapping up picture book apps from Apple's online store. In fact, children'sstories held six of the top 10 paid iPad book-app sales spots as of press time.Typical prices for children's book apps range anywhere from $2.99 for TheCat in the Hat to $9.99 for Miss Spider's Tea Party.
So far the big winners seem to be householdnames. The current bestselling kid-lit iPad apps are The Cat in the Hat, Dr. Seuss's ABC, Toy Story 2Read-Along, How to Train Your Dragon, Miss Spider's Tea Party,and The Goose That Laid the Golden Egg. The top 10 freebiebook apps also included kid titles: Toy Story Read-Along, Twilight, the Graphic Novel,Lite, Volume 1, and ABC Dinosaurs-iPad Edition. And inthe iBookstore, as opposed to the app store, the top five paid children andteens' books were Eclipse,The Lightning Thief, Twilight, Breaking Dawn, and TheBerenstain Bears Go to Sunday School.
Early Adopters andCareful Observers
Publishers and app makers are taking widelydifferent approaches to the burgeoning app market, with some instantly jumpingon the iPad bandwagon and others waiting to see how many moms and dads lettheir kids read stories on a $499 device. Some developers are tweaking existingapps, say for the iPhone or iPod Touch, while others are starting from scratch.
On iPad launch day, Disney introduced its $8.99 ToyStory 2 app, andwithin the next eight weeks plans to add The Princess and the Frog, Beauty and the Beast,Winnie-the-Pooh, and, in June, a 3D app for Toy Story 3. Apps will boost print book salesrather than cannibalize them, said Jeanne Mosure, senior v-p and grouppublisher of Disney Publishing Worldwide. "It just makes children more excitedabout the prospect of reading more and buying more books." By the end of this year,Disney plans to sell apps for about two dozen of its 600 stories availablethrough its Disney Digital Books initiative.Bob Iger, Disney's CEO, greenlighted Disney Publishing's iPad efforts whenSteve Jobs unveiled the iPad back on January 27.
Random House publishes the print versions of Dr.Seuss's titles, but app maker Oceanhouse Media licensed the iPad and iPhonerights to the entire collection from Dr. Seuss Enterprises. So far it haslaunched three apps (The Cat in the Hat, Dr. Seuss's ABC, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas).Within the next few weeks, it will also introduce The Lorax as two separateapps (a book and a game).
Oceanhouse sells games separately because itspresident, Michel Kripalani, thinks that's what Theodor Geisel would havewanted. "Ted Geisel was all about teaching kids how to read. Every feature weput into this book has to support reading and teaching kids how to read." Towit, Oceanhouse's apps let kids touch an object, such as a hat, and see theword for it float forward. And as the narrator reads, the app highlights thecorresponding text. As the number of iPad apps grows, Kripalani believes namerecognition will become increasingly important in order to stand out (there are170,000 apps for the more established iPhone, he noted). Oceanhouse plans toadd more bells and whistles to its first three Seuss apps, which run on boththe iPhone and the iPad.
Some companies, such as Scholastic, plan tooffer iPad apps—but not for week one. "Kids are very comfortable with portablemedia and devices," said Deborah Forte, president of Scholastic Media."Eventually this will be a platform that will have a very robust selection ofcontent on it, and we should be there." Still, Forte—who noted that Scholastichas offered multimedia for a quarter century—is not rushing. "We're sort oftrying to filter out all the noise and be really consumer-centric," she said."I'm not quite sure that our demographic will be the biggest users in terms ofthe launch of the iPad." Will many parents buy iPads for their kids-or sharetheir own? "We do think it's going to take a little bit of time to determinehow relevant this platform is going to be for kids," Forte said.
The Power of Free
As with the iPhone and iPod Touch, paid iPad appsaren't the only game in town-there's free material for kid-lit lovers, too. Theapp for the eight-year-old International Children's Digital Library,housed at the University of Maryland and largely funded by the National ScienceFoundation, lets iPad users read (but not download) more than 4,000 books fromaround the world. More than half are either written in English or have beentranslated into English.
Kids can also read International Children'sDigital Library stories on regular computers, but the iPad is more like a realbook, said Allison Druin, director of the Human-Computer Interaction Lab at theUniversity of Maryland."The way children read books is sitting on their bed, sitting with their parents.Laptops are good, but an iPad is going to be even more freeing," she said."The more that our technologies afford the feeling of what was once onlyable to be given to us through paper, the more we don't notice what thetechnology is, and we just care about the content."
The University of Marylandcreators took their existing Web site and adapted it for the iPad. When kidsrotate their device vertically to "portrait" mode, they see one page of a book.When they turn it horizontally to "landscape" mode, they see two pages. "Weencourage kids to read how they're comfortable," said Ben Bederson, associate professorof computer science at the University of Maryland. "iPad isreally the first time the International Children's Digital Library can be usedwith children in their parents' laps." As a result of the iPad's portabilityand convenience, he said, he projects that kids will spend more time withstories.
The University of Maryland is alsoenhancing its Story Kit app for the iPad, which lets kids create and sharetheir own stories. Bederson's only critique: the frame around the edge of thescreen (why not get rid of it and use the space for bigger children's picturebook art?) and its pound-and-a-half weight (vs. the Kindle at 10 ounces).
Turning iPhone Apps IntoiPad Apps (and Vice Versa)
Many apps sold on the iPad app store are thesame as the apps sold for the iPhone and iPod Touch. With the iPad, though,young readers no longer need to pan in and out to see a whole page. "Everythingis basically the same, only the viewing is bigger," said Todd Parr, author ofmore than 20 titles available as apps for Apple devices, most recently TheEARTH Book. "[But] the technology is there to experiment in so manydifferent ways to deliver not just a book," he said.
The iPad gives readers more freedom. "You wantpeople to be able to read it and interact with it on whatever their device ofchoice is," said Anthony Goff, publisher and director of Hachette Audio andDigital Media, which used ScrollMotion to create Parr's apps. "[But] the biggerand closer to book form and size the digital book is, the nicer it's going tolook."
Some publishers have adapted or will adapt theiriPhone apps for the iPad. Scholastic plans to enhance for the iPad its sixexisting iPhone and iPod Touch apps, which include I Spy Spooky Mansion, The 39 Clues Madrigal Maze, andClifford's BE BIG with Words. "We have always prided ourselves on developingcompelling media based on our books for every platform," said Scholastic's Forte."This is just another platform to be present on."
TOON Books offers iPhone and iPad apps for ArtSpiegelman's Jack and the Box andJeff Smith's Little Mouse Gets Ready,designed by iStoryTime, and plans to release the 10 more based on the rest of itslist by the end of the year. "We have a duty to make sure our books are offeredto kids in every format possible," said Françoise Mouly, editorial director forTOON Books and art director for The NewYorker. Last year the now two-year-old company released its books online,so the iPad is a natural next step, she said. She doesn't want to overdo it,though, with too many glitzy options. "There's a slippery slope, where peoplestart having sound effects and animation," she said. "Then it's a passive experiencefor the child."
Callaway Arts & Entertainment decided tobegin with the book-size device. "The iPad is the full, rich banquet," saidNicholas Callaway, chairman of Callaway Arts & Entertainment, which ninemonths ago started working with Apple on an app for David Kirk's $9.99 MissSpider's Tea Party. "It's like the difference between a small TV and IMAX.We decided to launch with the iPad to show [Miss Spider] in its fullglory." (In a couple of weeks, Callaway will start selling a separate iPhoneapp for $6.99.)
The Miss Spider app lets kids doeverything from play matching games to color pages filled with black-and-whiteimages. Kids simply touch brushes on the screen. "You can paint so much betteron an 8x10 screen than you can on the iPhone-size screen," said Callaway. SoonCallaway plans to let kids save their paintings in iPhoto and send them totheir grandmothers—or to Kirk.
Callaway is also working on an app for TheEnglish Roses, its tween girls' series with Madonna. And in the fourthquarter of 2010, Callaway is debuting Dreamers, a new series by DavidKirk, as an iPad app rather than as a print book. As it is doing with MissSpider, Callaway plans to release about one Dreamers title per month. Atsome point, the apps—like movie DVDs—will include "bonus features" that wouldgo "way beyond the back-jacket flaps," according to Callaway. "Being able to dovideo footage of our authors and creators is the kind of thing we areenvisioning for our apps."
Unlike e-readers, which typically reproduce atraditional book experience on an electronic screen, these apps can offeranimation, music, and many interactive features. "It's a whole differentcontent creation mechanism," said Callaway.
Bigplayers like ScrollMotion arecreating new apps, but as was true with the iPhone, smaller players can—and will—jumpin, too. Though it's not always easy. For example, because the iPadlacks a built-in camera, some apps require separate computer use to work. The creators of the A Story Before Bed storytelling service need to getgrandparents to download the app—and then record video of themselves readingbooks for their grandkids on a regular computer. Only then can the grandkidsuse the app to see Grandma reading stories via their iPad.
Inthe end, the large number of designers bringing more stories to more people may begood news for the publishing industry. After all, as Apple has shown, Americansseem to have an insatiate app-etite.