Share a Story - Shape a Future, Day Two

This is the second year for the blog literacy tour Share a Story - Shape a Future. Along with creating the logo, and hosting Day 5 last year (subject: Technology and Reading - What the Future Holds), I am happy to contribute an article to this year's Day 2 theme, "Literacy My Way/Literacy Your Way," hosted by Susan Stephenson of The Book Chook. Here's my contribution for 2010:

Beyond the Printed Page?

Along with printed books, more and more people are doing their reading digitally – whether it be online, on their cell phones or on eReaders. And with Apple’s iPad on the horizon, digital reading is about to get kicked up a notch. But with all these choices, what is in store for the future of reading?

The good news is, reports indicate that reading is actually UP. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts reported that Reading Is On the Rise for the first time since they started tracking the statistics in 1982. And that’s after two ten-year periods of significant decline. And the most rapid increases are among Young Adults. Groovy, huh?

Why the rise? Perhaps because so much of how we gather information and communicate with each other these days is via text. Through online social networking, email and text messaging, we have become a reading society. It’s only natural that this common mode of interaction would roll over into books.

Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean printed books.

Many believe books will soon go the way of the music world, where everything is digital, brick and mortar stores are few and far between, and customers can download anything they like online for a low, fixed price. And while some would spout the digital revolution means the demise of the printed page, I disagree.

I see reading going the way of movies rather than music. Think about all the ways we enjoy movies – online, pay-per-view, recorded via tivo, Netflix, DVDs, movie rentals, and yes, still in theaters. All of these venues are still viable and give viewers a world of options to enjoy.

Reading can do the same thing. The population is certainly still growing and people want and can sustain options for their particular needs or moods. For example, an eBook doesn’t work well for storytime. But they work great when stuck in line at the grocery store or on a long voyage when carrying lots of books is impossible.

Digital reading promises to offer new ways to enjoy content especially through interaction. Scholastic’s “39 Clues” is already exploring options through videos and games on their related website. But what about eReaders? Imagine the possibilities.

What if while reading Twilight you could drop into a message board and discuss ‘Team Edward vs. Team Jacob’? What if your child could read a bilingual book and take a quiz on the words he/she just learned? Or what if your toddler could color some images from the picture book you just shared? The ideas are exciting, and they are already happening.

It’s an exciting time to create books too. Knowing that our books can be printed, or digitally shared, opens up creative possibilities. For instance, I am author, illustrator and voice talent in my new iPhone Picture Book App “Lula’s Brew.” My future works may include links to my website, interviews, even my coloring pages. I love that!

But with all the excitement about eBooks, there remains a solid position for the printed book. Beyond the fact that not all readers can afford the digital accessories necessary to enjoy eBooks, beginning readers need a place to start. Printed picture books introduce the concept of what a book is, and reading, in a quiet, advertisement free format, shared in the safety of a home, school or bookstore with parents or loved ones. They train the beginning reader to understand what a story looks like and feels like, and to use their imagination to fill in the gaps. Printed books are a refuge from the world at large, and can remain so for a lifetime.

So before a child can jump into the hype of electronic reading, they need the basics. And the basics are and will remain, printed books. And that remains exciting for those of us who create them.

So all said, the future of reading is looking brighter than ever. Granted, there is scrambling as we figure out the different forms and means for reading and how authors, stores and publishers can make a living in this new environment. But the reader is the one who benefits in the end with more ways than ever to enjoy a good story.

Related Articles:
As Books Go Beyond Printed Page to Multisensory Experience, What About Reading? (Washington Post)
Kids' Lit: Beyond Paper Books (The Huffington Post)
E-Book Sales Jump 176% in Flat Trade Year (Publishers Weekly)
Seth Godin interviewed at The Reading Edge Podcast
Don't Believe the E-Book Skeptics by Agent, Nathan Bransford

Related digital tool which promotes printed books:
LibraryThing has released a free iPhone App that aims to be a bookish version of local dining apps like Urban Spoon. "It shows you local bookstores, libraries and bookish events wherever you are or plan to be.... We hope it will be a shot in the arm for physical bookstores and libraries—a new way to see how much bookishness there is around you." - LT

Want to see what an iPhone Picture Book App looks like? Check out my iPhone Picture Book App "Lula's Brew"! (In the Apple Store, search: Lula.)


Mrs. Chac said...

I've downloaded your story and my little boy loves it!! He listens/reads it on our way home every day. Thanks! Can't wait for the next one.

Deebi27 said...

I don't have one yet. I'm out of contract and waiting for the tax refund to buy a new phone. But if my son has it his way I'll wait until June when the new iPhone comes out and he said he would give me his and thereby saving me some $. I have a very thoughtful son. I have to debate if I want to pay $20. per month extra or $30. BIG decision.

BookChook said...

Elizabeth, I really think you have summed up the current and future situation beautifully. I shiver when I hear talk of library books being discarded in favour of computers. We definitely need both, and we need the freedom to choose either to suit our current circumstances.

Technology is making amazing things possible. Let's embrace the best of it, but hang onto the baby AND the bath water!

Elizabeth O. Dulemba said...

Jael, You made my DAY! I'm so glad your son enjoys "Lula's Brew"!!

Hope that works out for you Deebie!

I agree we need both, but I also think there's room for both! It's an exciting time we live in!

Dawn Riccardi Morris said...

You're right - there are so many possibilities when it comes to reading and learning these days. While it's certainly a wonderful thing, it's easy to get lost in the details and distractions.

That's why the words that resonate the most for me here are:

"Printed books are a refuge from the world at large, and can remain so for a lifetime."

Thanks for a thought-provoking post!

Brimful Curiosities said...

I feel so far behind when it comes to some of this technology, especially the iPhone apps. Apple needs to increase their coverage area before we'd be able to get one. I still prefer sitting together with my children, a book in our laps.

Terry Doherty said...

Comparing books to movies is an excellent analogy, E. We do need books, especially picture books, but it is nice to have the opportunity to make them more interactive. That is our goal, to ENGAGE kids with books.

Funny story: my husband and I bought an eReader as our joint Christmas gift to each other this year. He says it is the most under-used gadget we spent money on because we still read books. I do both, though I admit preferring paper. When I travel, though, it will be nice to have something a little more compact!

Elizabeth O. Dulemba said...

Thanks Dawn - I'm quotable! (Who knew???) :)

Janelle - I don't blame you. I've tried hard to keep up with it all, but it's all changing so fast, it's challenging!

Terry - I agree. I still read books, although the Hubs and I have already agreed the iPad is in our future. It will be interesting to see how my reading habits change/adapt.

Melissa Taylor said...

Oh, I have iphone envy -- I'm still a Blackberry girl with poor At&t coverage in my area. One day . . .

I do the social media for - it's an interesting concept with online books you can read in your own voice. Currently, we're in talks with all the big pub. houses and hope to get their books and make improvements. I'd love to know what you think about it!

Great post!

Tif Sweeney said...

Despite my aversion to ebooks, you bring up some great points here and I am slowly becoming more comfortable with the idea. Thanks for opening my eyes a bit more!! :)

Elizabeth O. Dulemba said...

Thanks Melissa! I did a write-up about RippleReader a while back. It's a great idea.

And Tif, I'm glad you enjoyed my article!

Jael said...

Well, my students just can't get enough of your books. So today as a treat I told them that you would be reading them the story. They were thrilled with delight. We sat in our reading spot and I showed them how my iPhone works. I played your book app and it was GREAT!!! It did not matter to them that the picture was small because of the size of my phone. Whenever we needed to hear a page again we would just turn the page back again. They LOVED it!! Thanks for being one of the first out there to start revolutionizing phones into books!

Elizabeth O. Dulemba said...

OH MY GOSH! You just MADE MY DAY!!!! I wish I could have been a fly on the wall!
By the way - Lula's Brew is being programmed for the new iPad as I type - so with luck, it will be one of the first picture books available on their new creation.