A computer isn't the only place to look for new takes on books that use digital technology. A new generation of interactive children's books featuring pen-like devices that trigger voiceovers, sound effects, music and activities on the pages of books are now hitting store shelves. Simon & Schuster's Follow the Reader debuted in fall 2007; LeapFrog's Tag reading system came out this summer; and Publications International's Poingo will be released this fall. By then, a collective total of 26 titles will be available, with more to come.

“When you think about the interactive platforms we've known over the last five or so years, this is the next logical leap forward,” said Kerry Cunnion, Publications International's executive v-p, retail sales and marketing.

“Everything on the page is alive,” added Betsy Eshoei, LeapFrog's associate brand manager for LeapFrog's Tag.

Follow the Reader titles come with their own character-shaped pens, while the others sell the pen separately in a starter set. Most of the titles feature licensed characters, like Dora the Explorer and Thomas the Train, but Tag has some originals and a line of classics such as The Little Engine That Could. Distribution skews toward mass market outlets, with Poingo and Follow the Reader in book departments and Tag in the electronic learning aisle. (Follow the Reader is in bookstores as well.) The Tag starter system sells for $49.99, with individual books selling for $13.99. The Poingo starter set retails for $34.99, with books for $9.99; Follow the Reader is $24.95 for book and pen.

Expect further refinements down the road. “Since [Follow the Reader] is new for us, we're looking into different variations of the product for future incarnations,” said S&S's Valerie Garfield, v-p, publisher, novelty and licensed publishing.