Ebooks for kids – the revolution will not be televised!

Another mate, Stephen Dedman, pointed me to this article in the New York Times about the surge in children using e-readers.

Here’s a snapshot of the stats that publishers are salivating about:

“At HarperCollins, for example, e-books made up 25 percent of all young-adult sales in January, up from about 6 percent a year before .”

But the quote that caught my attention, and no doubt will catch the eyes of many, many others, was this, the second paragraph of the article:

“Some weeks I completely forgot about TV,” said Eliana, 11. “I went two weeks with only watching one show, or no shows at all. I was just reading every day.”

Now that’s the e-revolution in action (and aparently, it won’t be televised – or at least, it won’t involve television!).

Read the full article here.



  1. Elfwreck says:

    There’s a major problem with ebooks for kids: they can’t buy them.

    They can’t get $20 from grandma and go to the ebookstore to pick up two or three books by themselves. They can’t even get a $20 Visa gift card from grandma and go to the ebookstore; the vast majority have a TOS that doesn’t allow minors to even sign up for the site. (Booksonboard is the only exception I know of–and the minor still needs a way to pay for content online.)

    Kids can’t come into an interest in ebooks with direct parental supervision and assistance; they’re only an option for children from tech-enhanced households with parents with enough financial resources to cope with online spending.

    This disturbs me; I don’t want ebooks to be a mark of elitism. And there is plenty of free digital content online–but none of the ebook devices are designed to find it or work well with it; they all come with lots of info about how to *buy* ebooks, which means “kids: get your parents’ help for this.” And kids shouldn’t need parental help to become avid readers; part of the joy of reading is finding out for yourself what kinds of books you love. Kids can’t do that if every ebook has to be purchased by an adult.

    I suspect this commercial gap–ebooks that kids can buy for themselves–will eventually cause big problems for publishers; kids who grow up reading from Feedbooks and online story archives (my daughter has a Kindle; I can’t pry her away from fanfiction.net) will be active readers who don’t think of ebooks as something to pay for at all.

    • Shane Jiraiya Cummings says:

      I don’t see kids’ lack of being able to purchase ebooks as a major hurdle in the short to medium term. Yes, there’s the upfront cost of the e-reader, but that’s what Christmas and birthdays are for. Parents have always controlled what their children read (and fair enough, too), so them buying ebooks that they deem appropriate is just an extension of that.

      The free stuff, well, I agree that could be a problem in the long term. For many, I think there’s already an expectation that if it’s on the web, it should be free.

      I have a different perspective about ebooks being a form of elitism. I’d argue books always have been.

      Traditionally, poor families have usually found books to be a luxury they can’t afford, so nothing will change in that regard when it comes to ebooks. I’m opening myself to attack here, but I’ll assert that books (print or e-) have always been the domain of the middle and upper classes. Yes, class distinctions have blurred in the past 50-100 years (depending where you live in the western world), but when you’re on the bones of your arse, you don’t care about reading when you need to feed and clothe yourself.

      Back to the original point … middle and upper class kids aspire to new and better technology, and I see e-readers being part of that (even if they could be a transitional technology …). If their parents (or they themselves when they’re saving pocket money or working part time jobs as teens) can find the money for an iPod, the latest touchscreen mobile/cell phone, or a laptop or iPad, then there will certainly be money in the coffers for an e-reader if the kids crave them badly enough.

      • Elfwreck says:

        I agree that books were originally and traditionally a middle- and upper-class resource. It’s only in the last 50-100 years, maybe closer to the short end of that, that there’s been enough of a cheap book market, and enough of a used book market, that kids living in poverty had access to a large selection of literature.

        And with the advent of computers, part of that is being removed. This is weird, because part of what computers & the internet is doing, is bringing world connections to poor families. Almost every household can afford a computer and internet, so they all get free access to Gutenberg and Feedbooks… but the popular books that used to be available for half-paperback-price at used bookstores are going away.

        In the short run, I think you’re right; it won’t matter. In the longer run, the current system is setting up a divide between kids-who-have and kids-who-have-not; educational materials will be free to everyone (there’s no shortage of free learning materials), but leisure & entertainment content will be sharply split between free & paid.

        I grew up reading science fiction and Harlequin romances bought at 4 for $1. My kids have access to plenty of science fiction ebooks–Baen takes care of that–but there’s no discount romance ebooks other than a handful of freebies scattered across many sites.

  2. Our local library is thinking of purchasing ereaders for loaning out to members – not sure if I think its wise financially but I should imagine n the near future kids will be able to have access to certain sections of online eBook libraries as well as cheaper readers