Kindles and Nooks have clearly generated support from a particular style of reader helping e-books carve a healthy chunk out of the printed word market. And the vast majority of e-books are just that, printed words. But a children’s book is a horse of a different color. I’m not saying that parents and children will never read about Dot from an iPad. I’m just saying that it will be different in a few, not so obvious ways.
- E-books don’t smell. As subtle as the scents of ink, paper, and binding cement may be, books can have distinctive odors. Probably not something any child overtly notices. But dig out that old edition of “Oh the Places You’ll Go,” take a good whiff, and you’re 4 years old again.
- E-books are all the same size. One of the fun things about kids’ books is the spectrum of shapes and sizes. Board pages, cut-outs, pop-ups, and textures all designed to add to the experience and expression of the story.
- E-books don’t stack. Part of the fun of the bedtime ritual, at least as a parent, is sitting on the edge of the bed while my child selects an unwieldy stack of books. Plop. “Here, Daddy. Read!” Priceless.
- Grandma can’t sign an e-book. No more, “This was always one of my favorites. Happy 5th Birthday!” on the inside cover. So sad.
- E-books don’t age. How are you supposed to pass down a well-worn copy of “Blueberries for Sal” if it never shows any wear?
So, if nothing else, children’s books create indelible memories of family, imagination, and the experience of learning to reading. And much of that very sensory experience is drawn from paper pages that rip and smell and feel like childhood.