The "What Works Well Where? Considering Books for Children in Different Formats" session at TOC 2012 stressed the necessary coexistence of digital and traditional books for children, an opinion put forth by Junko Yokota, director of the Center for Teaching Through Children’s Books.
"It’s not really an either/or conversation for me," Yokota said, but rather, it’s about which direction, print or digital (or both) is right for each title. Using a series of examples, Yokota showed how titles could fit better in digital than in print and vice versa. She pointed to The Cat in the Hat by Oceanhouse Media as a stellar app experience, particularly noting the speed and quality of the story narration. But books adapted to the app world have to be handled carefully, Yokota said, using PopOut! The Tale of Peter Rabbit app as an example. Even though the app was highly praised (including by Kirkus Reviews, which named it the best Children’s Book iPad App of 2010), Yokota questioned the app’s interactivity, arguing that such features as falling leaves and berries that children can tap and move around the screen distracts from the story and the text on the page. “I wonder if these features could be turned off for the first read through the book,” she said.
Yokota disagreed with the New York Times article "For Their Children, Many E-Book Fans Insist on Paper" from November 2011, and repeatedly reiterated a number of factors must be taken into consideration to decide the format each title should take, including access issues, the design of the book, the content timeliness and agility, and the editing and vetting processes.
One of the most promising aspects of children’s books as apps is that they have the capability of internationalizing storytelling by including multiple language options and by thinking how foreign rights are negotiated. Yokota was also encouraged by all of the boundaries that restrict print becoming nonexistent with e-books and apps. Of course, she noted, the limitless possibilities for the growing medium are not going to create themselves; they’re entirely dependent on creators who will think differently and non-linearly.