As e-books are now part of our children’s daily lives, what is the daily reality of an educational e-book publisher? by Chloe Benaroya, Tribal Nova, Inc.
Recent reports show that the children’s e-book industry is a dynamic economy with an appetite for kid’s reading on digital platforms. According to the 2015 study by Digital Book World and PlayScience, 93% of children (2-13 years old) read an e-book once a week. 21% of children’s books purchased in 2014 were e-books, a market driven by young adult e-books.
Although there are real business opportunities, the reality of an electronic publisher is trickier than one can imagine at first. The e-book market is segmented, and it can be a challenge for digital publishers to have a long-term strategy, to build a sustainable business model and to streamline the digital production process.
Whereas traditional book publishing is a mature industry, the e-book industry has still to define itself. What is an e-book for children in the first place? The definition of an e-book varies enormously according to the format, the content, and the user experience you target. Are you referring to a digital version of a book that can be read on your smartphones, tablets or other reading devices? Are you referring to an e-book with interactions, sound-effects, music and audio, usually called enriched e-books? Do you include in the definition reading apps that are sold as standalone apps in digital stores and can propose various user experiences (where audiovisual and interactive stimuli can be dominant over text elements)?
For each of these types of products, there are different distribution channels and marketing strategies. According to the path you choose, your final product can be distributed as an e-book and sold as a paid downloadable product via e-book retailers (Amazon Kindle Store or Barnes and Noble Nook store) or via publisher’s sites, or subscription services. Alternatively, your product can be considered a children’s app and be sold on completely different distribution channels, such as the Apple App store and Google Play. It will then compete for visibility in a competitive market (over 80,000 education apps in the App Store) with other children’s apps and renowned branded games.
The distribution channels you choose as a publisher will impact your pricing strategy and your business model. For example, if you consider the average price in the e-book
 The ABCs of Kids and E-Reading: Volume 4–Devices, Content and Reading Habits of Children 2–3, 2013, Digital Book World and PlayScience
 The Nielsen Children’s Book Summit, 2014.
Responsible Science Communication re: Digital Media by Aparna Nadig
Many academics are much more comfortable communicating their research findings to other academics than to the popular press, and regard the sound bites and snippets of research served up in the press with scorn. Yet, the intersection between research and the popular press is critical and particularly consequential when it comes to topics of health and education, as for our topic of digital media for young children. Our second Round Table Discussion focused on the Responsible Science Communication re: Digital Media to move past this passive position and consider what is needed to achieve more evidence-based and responsible dissemination of research findings. We started by exploring the context created by the popular press on digital media use by children, as this is the environment that educators and professionals working with children, digital media professionals, and scientists confront when trying to convey key messages about digital media use. I asked participants (who self-identified as students or researchers, 40%, education or health professionals, 32%, parents of young children, 16%, digital media professionals, 8%, or other 4%) to report their gut response with respect to how much they agreed with a barrage of headlines, from sensational takes like this one (1) from Salon.com which talks about “rotting kids brains”:
This is the report from the audience on the Salon headline:
To more balanced and nuanced reporting as seen in this article (2) from BBC News, which discusses varying degrees of video gaming being related to different outcomes in children:
Polling results showed that our participants, who were well-informed about digital media use and/or how to communicate with families of young children, largely disagreed with the sensationalist headline and fear-mongering approach of article (1), and conversely were much more in agreement with the nuanced headline of (2) which appeared give a more comprehensive view of a research study.
Unfortunately, in our search of news headlines on digital media use in children we overwhelmingly encountered the inflammatory approach seen in example (1).
We then worked through a detailed example of the disconnect between popular press stories (using an example article from The Telegraph, 3 below) and research evidence, leading to inflammatory and potentially dangerously misleading claims.
Participants discussed the causes and impacts of such claims on different stakeholder groups, as well as what should be done to improve the accuracy and reliability of reporting. Recommendations to increase the public’s understanding of research evidence on digital media included:
Taking an active role in critical dissemination of research findings
- Sharing information within our social networks, debunking misinformation
- Establishing an internet presence on blogs and social media. Blogs can serve as a more detailed information source for journalists, and can be used by journalists to complement press releases if they cannot reach scientists: http://www.theguardian.com/science/blog/2012/mar/07/scientists-help-improve-science-journalism
- Task members of the research team (RAs, graduate students) to comment on articles, online forms to voice other perspectives
- Making use of outreach through teacher blogs for parents of school children
Scientists taking steps to be more savvy communicators of their research evidence
- Cherry pick your journalists and media outlets to control your message
- Be prepared, have your key messages ready for sound bites
- Nip exaggerated claims in the bud, remove them from academic press releases. University press releases, not journalists, are often the original source of overstated claims (Sumner et al., 2014 BMJ; http://www.bmj.com/content/349/bmj.g7015)
- Be able to communicate findings clearly in lay language, convey consistent, simple messages
- Publish using open access methods to increase availability of full research reports
- Engaging in discussion and efforts with journalists to address this disconnect (e.g., as in this debate with journalists and scientists, hosted by the Royal Institution, UK in 2012, http://richannel.org/alok-jha-science-and-the-media–presentations)
Making use of media mediators
- Join The Conversation, an organization and website committed to knowledge-based journalism. Academics and researchers work with journalists to provide evidence-based, ethical and responsible information. (The UK & Australia lead on this, there is a US pilot version: https://theconversation.com/us)
- Use filters, like moms with apps, to locate good content. Moms with apps supports the thoughtful use of technology, and originated from a group of parents and family-friendly app developers: http://blog.momswithapps.com/
- Researchers can gain from involving their institutional Public Relations or Communications offices in dissemination efforts
- Consider branding and developing a type of science marketing where communications experts are involved in research teams
Widespread changes needed to have a more critical public in the digital age
- The ability to extract and evaluate the validity of information should be emphasized in school curriculums
- Basic literacy in how to be discerning and critically evaluate claims
- Make the public aware that universities and their websites are great, valid tools to access relevant information
The topic of this Round Table discussion was a novel one for me in my history of attending research conferences, and the response of many of our participants indicated that it was similarly new to them and that they found it important and refreshing to consider this intersection of research and the press. The general take home message was one urging researchers, educators and professionals working with young children to get up and take an active role in the responsible communication of information on digital media use in children, in their communities as well as in online forums.
Theme I: Key Messages for Parents and Teachers, by Lizzie Carolan, Melanie Orellana and Kathrin Rees
The kick-off presentation for the first theme was introduced by Kathrin Rees, Certified Teacher at Special Education Schools/Germany and Doctoral Candidate at the School of Communication Sciences and Disorders at McGill University. Her kick-off presentation (Rees diglitMcGill Day 2 blog slides) focused on three pieces of advice that parents frequently encounter in relation to sharing eBooks with their children: (1) quality eBooks guarantee learning, (2) read eBooks just like traditional books, and (3) give the child the lead. She evaluated the validity of these messages in turn.
For key message (1), quality eBooks guarantee learning, Kathrin brought up the fact that finding quality eBooks is often challenging. Although there is a growing number of excellent reviewer websites , not all parents or teachers know about such resources or take the time to consult them before making a purchase. Oftentimes, the frameworks that are out there have not been scientifically evaluated. Fortunately, researchers are beginning to put out evidence-based frameworks, such as Hirsh-Pasek et al. (2015) (discussed in more detail below). Apps often have flexible settings, which presents another challenge as both the basic and the enhanced version of the app need evaluation. Clearly, there is a need for a more efficient and streamlined way for parents and teachers to evaluate apps before sharing them with children.
For key messages (2) read eBooks just like traditional books and (3) give the child the lead, Kathrin presented video clips to the audience from her own research on shared reading with tablets (for a more detailed discussion of these topics, see Kathrin’s previous blogposts here and here ). She presented a few instances in which the advice to share the e-book just like a traditional print book evidently worked, in other words dyads seamlessly adapted to the novel reading medium. However, a number of counter-examples showed how other dyads failed at the attempt to treat the new as something known, experiencing conflicts and disruptions in turn taking when trying to talk about the e-story. Giving children more control over the device was presented as one potentially useful strategy, if accompanied by a change in parent’s verbal strategies, e.g. a higher volume of parallel talk instead of directive questions by the parent. After presenting these videos, Kathrin left the audience with questions to discuss, namely: What are your own perspectives on the three pieces of advice that were introduced in this presentation? What do you think are the most important key messages that we should transmit to parents and teachers about digital media use with children? The responses, reported below, centered around three ideas: setting a routine for eBooks, emphasizing the interaction between parent/teacher and child during the reading, and evaluating and familiarizing yourself with the apps you might use.
The idea of establishing a routine with your child or with children in the classroom was brought up by several tables during the discussion. Establishing separate routines for eBooks and paper books is encouraged; for both formats the audience agreed that it is important to be clear about the objectives and the expectations for the shared reading experience. For example, are you reading together for fun or for educational purposes? Who will turn the pages? Will you leave the interactive features on or will you do two readings (first without the interactive features and the second reading with)? Questions like these will help you establish a solid reading routine for you and your child.
Another key point raised during the discussion was about the interaction between parent/teacher and child during shared reading. The audience agreed that the scaffolding provided by the adult and the interaction between the adult and child are the most important components of the shared reading experience, not the format of the book. A concern with eBooks was brought up in this regard: oftentimes, interaction when reading eBooks is too centered on the technology (see a previous blogpost that discusses the high amount of technology-related talk between parent-child dyads when reading eBooks). This brings us back to establishing a good routine – if the objectives are clear and the routine is set, technology-related talk is likely reduced.
Lastly, the audience agreed that it was important for parents/teachers to first evaluate the apps that they might use with children and then also be familiar and comfortable with these apps. Here we provide a summary of the framework proposed in Hirsh-Pasek et al. (2015) in hopes of providing you with a tool for evaluation . In their paper, Hirsh-Pasek et al. propose evidence-based guidelines rooted in the science of learning to facilitate this process. These guidelines are envisioned as “pillars” to support the overall learning development of the child. Below, we take a closer look at each of the four pillars of learning.
The four pillars proposed by Hirsh-Pasek et al. (2015) are active learning, engagement in the learning process, meaningful learning, and socially interactive learning. Active learning refers to minds-on learning, such that the app should require the child to embody an active role as opposed to a passive role. The next pillar, engagement, is evaluated based on the content and features of the app. Parents with a learning objective in mind would do best to avoid apps with features that may distract the child from being engaged with learning. The child will be most likely to remain focused and on-task if the eBook integrates the three following ingredients: contingent interactions (e.g. the app responds to a swipe or touch), feedback and positive reinforcements, and intrinsic motivation (namely, fun!). The third pillar is about meaningful learning, which occurs when new information alters or builds on the child’s prior knowledge. This can take place when there is a clear goal or when the learning is personally relevant. eBook designers can make the learning meaningful to the child by using the narrative as a tool or by linking the activity to the child’s everyday life. Finally, high-quality interaction between parent and child is essential for learning to take place as social contingency plays a central role in learning. This is particularly true for tasks that are related to language or to the development of the child’s critical thinking skills. Although not mentioned as a “pillar” per se, scaffolded exploration (Hirsh Pasek et al., 2015) is another important component to include when sharing apps or eBooks with a child, as without it, learning goals can be compromised. Scaffolding toward a learning goal according to these authors can be provided by an external source, such as a parent, or within the app itself.
We would like to thank the audience for their participation as well as for sharing their ideas with us during this day. We hope that the ideas generated from the round-table discussions serve as a point of reflection for parents and educators who are establishing their own eBook and app practices at home or in the classroom.
Theme I Handouts
Cooney Center (2014) Family Time with Apps: A Guide to Using Apps with Your Kids available as a pdf, or,
Hirsh-Pasek, K., Zosh, J. M., Michnik, Golinkoff, R., Gray, J. H., Robb, M. B., & Kaufman, J. (2015). Putting education in “educational” apps: Lessons from the science of learning. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 16(1), 3-24.
Theme III: Responsible Marketing of Digital Media, blog by Chloe Benaroya, Tribal Nova, Inc.On June 27, we held a round-table discussion at McGill University as part of the Digital Literacy for Preschoolers conference. The round-table discussion focused on the three following themes: key messages for parents and teachers regarding digital media, responsible science communication regarding digital media, and responsible marketing of digital media. The ideas generated from these discussions will inform a new section of the Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development. Each theme was introduced with a kick-off presentation to get ideas flowing for group discussion. Separate posts will summarize the kick-off presentation and the ensuing discussion and provide links to any materials that were provided to conference participants.
- Theme I: Key Messages for Parents and Teachers, blog by Lizzie Carolan, Melanie Orellana and Kathrin Rees, Child Phonology Laboratory POSTED ON DECEMBER 9, 2015
- Theme II: Responsible Science Communication, blog by Dr. Aparna Nadig, School of Communication Sciences and Disorders POSTED ON DECEMBER 9, 2015
- Theme III: Responsible Marketing of Digital Media, blog by Chloe Benaroya, Tribal Nova, Inc. POSTED ON DECEMBER 10, 2015
Natalia Kucirkova and Susan Rvachew are very pleased to announce our call for papers in a special issue of the International Journal of Child-Computer Interaction. We will be accepting abstracts first and then, after selection, will invite authors to submit full papers for submission by July 1, 2016. The special issue is called Reading in the 21st century: how does digital book-reading influence the reading processes and outcomes for young children? Please follow the link to the journal site for full information on the issue and take note of the important dates below.
Abstracts submitted to Guest Editors by: February 1, 2016
Decisions about acceptance of abstracts by: April 1, 2016
Full papers submitted in EVISE by: July 1, 2016
Final decisions by: March 1, 2017
Publication time: May, 2017
Natalia Kucirkova, The Open University, UK, ✉Natalia.firstname.lastname@example.org↗
Susan Rvachew, McGill University, Canada, Susan.email@example.com↗