One exciting opportunity children now have with modern technology when it comes to learning is children's ebooks. Although several companies provide their own versions of this service, we will be focusing on NOOK Kids, which has become extremely popular and succesful particularly in publishing children's books online. This article will not be a review of NOOK tablets, or the NOOK ebook service in general. We will get into the differences between ebooks and real books for a little bit, but we will be talking primarily about the NOOK Kids service.
What is NOOK Kids?
NOOK Kids is a publishing platform for children's books under retailer Barnes & Noble. Originally exclusive to NOOK devices, B&N has expanded the service to work on Apple devices, Android, PC, and even the open web. NOOK Kids books use B&N's proprietary ePib format, developed by Automata. This format adds various interactive elements to ebooks appropriate to early reading levels.
As a major retailer, B&N's portfolio of books is extensive. From Diary of A Wimpy Kid, Harry Potter to Richard Scarry, you are sure to find a book that suits your child, regardless of age or reading level. B&N has signed up the big children's book publishers like HarperCollins and Random House and has access to 12,000 books.
Although B&N as adopted multiple platforms, NOOK Kids is designed to work best on NOOK tablets. Some books are only available there, and some features are also removed in certain platforms. For example, highlighting and adding bookmarks, and abilities like pinch and zoom, are available in the NOOK tablet, as well as the iPhone and Android tablet apps, but not in the web.
Use of ePib comes with a price, and that price ranges from $ 0.99 to $ 25. On average, books cost around $ 5 to $ 6, although you may find yourself paying top dollar for classics like "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown", which currently retails for $ 9.99. You can get these books cheaper in stores, especially if you buy them used.
So what do you really pay for when you buy books in NOOK Kids? For one, Nook Kids allows you to make profiles, personalizing libraries and setting parental controls per child. There are also additional features exclusive to ePibs, and you really would not be able to duplicate outside Nook. Books labeled "Read To Me" will read the book aloud. "Read and Play" Books go a step further and come with small games and activities built right into the story. However, the most useful feature is "Read and Record", which allows families to record themselves telling the stories. Parents can retell stories over and over, and kids can even add their own voices in.
Unlike regular NOOK or other online bookstores, you cannot lend out ebooks in your NOOK Kids library. It also does not have rentals, or a Spotify model which would let you pay a monthly fee for instant access to several books. You can only pay full retail for these books.
Barnes & Noble does have seasonal promotions that offer great value. For example, this year they had a Summer Reading Program, which gave new purchasers of Nook Tablets free access to several summer books, including bestsellers and classics. There are also some free books along with $ 0.99 books.
eBooks versus real books
This is where we get to the crux of the matter. Choosing to use NOOK Kids is a decision between real books and ebooks. You can of course continue to buy some real books while using a NOOK Kids account, but the decision you are really making here is if it is worthwhile to use the NOOK Kids service at all.
ePibs provide real value. Some features it adds, like Slide and Find, duplicate functions kids could do on real ebooks, while others, like pinch and zoom to focus on pictures, are only available on the new platform.
Of course, it should be abundantly clear that NOOK Kids cannot duplicate certain features of real books. Pop-up books, Scratch and sniff books and sticker books are just some examples of books that cannot be duplicated on a tablet, not really. Beyond that, even if your child has become very familiar and used to reading off LED screens, they will have to be accustomed to reading on paper as well. And of course, some people have nostalgia for the act of collecting and owning books, although this experience varies.
In the end, eBooks are an entirely new entity compared to physical books. The convenience of having multiple books available from an online library will make book collecting convenient, and you can cherry pick titles you will give to your child as physical copies. There is a high possibility that you will end up buying your child's favorite books in their NOOK Kids account physically as well.
As is the case with other new tech and media services, you should get NOOK Kids only if you can afford it. NOOK Kids is a great platform on its own, giving you reasonable access to a wide library of titles, and with many new features. However, there is nothing wrong with still buying and using real books. In fact, children also stand to learn from the experience of collecting books and building up their own libraries.
Also remember that your ownership, or your child's ownership of these ePibs, is in the same shaky legal ground that ownership of your iTunes library is in. You should think of NOOK as a service more than a product. Although you will generally have control over the books that you have purchased through NOOK Kids, remember that there is always that possibility that you will lose access or control over those books. Read the Digital Content provision under Barnes & Noble's Terms and Conditions so you have a better understanding of what you would be signing up for.
NOOK Kids is new and has many limitations, but it is already a great service. For parents, it's worth purchasing a NOOK Tablet to access all its features, but you can opt to use other platforms you already own.
What do you think of NOOK Kids? Would you buy children's books online? Share your thoughts in the comments.