[Above: a still from one of our children's apps, Discovery Kids Sharks.]
“Content” was the big word at Digital Book World’s annual conference this year. “I’m not an author, I’m a content provider”, said Nancy O’Connor as she took the stage during Barnes and Noble’s Nook Kids presentation. She was half-joking, but the message was clear: the definition of a “book” is much, much broader than it used to be. When it comes to children’s books, that landscape is looking different by the day. “Children’s Publishing Goes Digital” was an all-day session designed to engage publishers, developers, researchers, and other “content providers” in conversation about what it will look like going forward. I spent the day there earlier this week getting the lowdown, and it is safe to say that publishing will see a lot of exciting activity in 2012. With this in mind, I wanted to share some highlights from the children’s publishing portion of Digital Book World and try my hand at some industry predictions for the year to come.
1. When we talk about “content”, we are talking about two things: quality and distribution.
One of the few points echoed with consistency across the whole of the conference was that what stands at the heart of any sales and marketing effort is strong content. A book’s quality is what will ultimately sell it and make people read it. Also, its “content” is about much more than just what fills its pages in print. Now, we can use vibrant illustrations and great characters to our full advantage and bring them to life in transmedia (multi-platform) storytelling formats. Video, web-based content, and interactive apps are all ways to continue the story “off the page” and truly bring it to life in a way that encourages young readers.
2. Children’s publishing formats are evolving, but children’s basic learning and development needs remain at the core of our own product development.
"Sesame Street is a 43-year research experiment," said Sesame Workshop’s Jennifer Perry in her presentation on how to teach pre-schoolers using digital technology. It is easy to look to Sesame Street and other trusted children’s brands like Discovery Kids, Nickelodeon, and Disney for cues on creating digital content that remains true to the core of children’s education. Perry pointed to a number of “best practices” that research has showin improve reading comprehension for kids. Questions that publishers and developers should ask include, “Does the child understand the calls to action?” and “What features increase understanding?”
3. Apps are not a shiny new toy; they are a tool to be used wisely.
There are quite a few articles (see this great recap from Digital Book World) going around about the wane of interest in apps by publishers. There is only one major reason for this, and that is of course that apps are not guaranteed money-makers. It is difficult – and sometimes expensive – to build a good app and even hard to get it noticed, and publishers are learning that apps should be part of a broader marketing strategy rather than a standalone attempt to capture sales.
Ultimately, this is great news for consumers! It means that more than ever, developers need to make sure that their apps represent their very best content with the best functionality available.
4. Rather than being a “threat” to print books, the publishing industry needs to see digital as an incredible opportunity to create young readers through technology.
Now more than ever, publishers have the opportunity to reach kids through nontraditional formats and encourage them to start reading at an early age. Kids have always and will always love the newest technology, both because they want the newest and coolest toys and because their curious minds are fascinated by how technology works. It is our job as content providers to deliver them engaging and interactive digital books and apps that will make them excited about becoming readers. This is a reward that will extend back to print books and beyond.
Happy New Year, all!
Like millions of people around the world, there’s a good chance that you got a shiny new device as a holiday gift. An iPhone, iPad, or iPod, Amazon Kindle, a Nook, a Sony e-Reader, an Android - these were all popular gifts this year, with Amazon alone reporting that they sold a million Kindles per week leading up to the holidays.
In my own family, for example, my parents have become shared owners of an Amazon Kindle. It’s their first experience with ebooks, and they’ve already shown themselves to be digitally savvy consumers. I was excited when the first thing my mom did was bring her Kindle into the kitchen to look up recipes and download cookbook samplers, because I use my iPad in much the same way.
We also found out this holiday season that diabetes runs in our family, and we’ve all started thinking about making New Year’s resolutions that might help us reverse that. Let’s face it: Even if you don’t make formal New Year’s Resolutions, most of us can be healthier and make better choices about what we eat, how we exercise, and how much time we spend cooking. Maybe you want to lose some weight, maybe you would like to be stronger, or maybe you want to learn more about cooking better foods and eating a wider variety of fruits and vegetables. Maybe your family, like mine, has had to deal with potential health problems and you want to give your body the best foods you can to fight them.
“Being healthier” can come in many, many different forms. It can also be made much easier with the help of your new (or existing) digital device. With that in mind, let’s start the New Year right by looking at a few ways you can make the most of your digital life in helping you reach your diet and fitness goals. We can all resolve to do better!
Exercise, Food, and Nutrition Apps
- Lose It! is a free app for the iPhone that helps you easily track the foods you eat every day. There are many other apps like this out there, but this is one of the simplest. Even if you aren’t counting calories, tracking your food can be a great way to find out what is missing from your diet and how you can improve.
- Map My Fitness is an app you can get on your Apple, Android, or Blackberry device that helps track running, walking, and biking routes and distances, as well as letting you enter in gym workouts. You can also enter in your information manually on the web, which makes it a really easy way to make sure you’re tracking all of your exercise.
- Seafood Watch was created by the Monterey Bay Aquarium to help you best choose the safest, healthiest, and most eco-friendly fish and seafood options at restaurants and grocery stores. It’s a wonderful way to start thinking carefully about where your food comes from and making the best choices not just for your body, but for the environment.
- The Photo Cookbook: Quick and Easy (for iPhone or iPad) Of course, we’re going to include a couple of Parragon’s own resources in this roundup, but Apple has also picked this app to be in their iPad ads (so we think that means they like it too) and we feel it’s one of the best apps out there for learning how to cook. A picture accompanies each step of every recipe, which makes it especially good if you’re just learning to cook, and the time-saving recipes we’ve included are designed to help busy people eat healthier, home-cooked meals.
- Use a goal-tracking system to help make sure you’re logging all of the important steps towards your goal! Joe’s Goals / Joe’s Logbook is a great free site to help you do this.
- For those who want to sync web-based goal tracking with devices, Toodledo is a great multi-platform option. The free version helps you schedule to-do list items (anything from “go for a run” to “try that great new stir-fry recipe”), and the paid upgrade option helps you track goals on a more sophisticated timeline with more functions.
- Scribd is a wonderful site for downloading free recipes and discovering new cookbooks that you might like to try. For starters, Parragon has a free PDF sampler of our “100 Best Health Foods” cookbook for download here - it’s a straightforward guide to some of the best foods for your health along with simple, easy recipes for how to cook them. Scribd is a great resource for seeing what’s new in the book and ebook world and sampling from books you might want to buy!
- Confused about where to begin, in general? Have a look at the fabulous Zen Habits blog A Compact Guide To Creating the Fitness Habit for helpful, non-overwhelming advice.
From everyone at Parragon, have a happy and healthy 2012 and we hope you meet all of your goals, whatever they may be!