Wednesday, 23 January 2013

#readitmummiesanddaddies2013 - When Print and E-Books collide to make something even more awesome!

Detente is beautiful, isn't it?
Whenever we see the subject of the 'great war between print and digital' coming up in discussions, we like to think about the middle ground in this imaginary conflict. You see, there are ways that both formats can coexist side by side, complimenting each other as deliciously as a blob of cream floating in a cup of really good strong coffee. 

We've already discussed the 'enhancement' of books available in print, but two other aspects of digital meeting print are becoming more and more interesting as technology becomes cheaper, more readily available and more widespread. 

For instance, most people (myself only just recently btw) now have a smartphone, a handy pocket device capable of organising their lives, communicating with friends, allowing a bit of downtime with some games and distractions - but did you know your smartphone can turn your book into an interactive experience? 

Nosy Crow's recent 'Stories Aloud' initiative is an example where a publisher has seen the potential of technology to enhance and enrich stories. Using a smartphone, parents or children can 'scan' the QR code inside a Nosy Crow print book and get access to an audio reading of that story. It's a brilliant idea for parents who aren't confident readers or for children who can't yet read but still want to enjoy a story all by themselves (assuming that you're happy with your children playing with your expensive smartphone or camera-enabled tablet, of course!)

It's a very exciting idea and Nosy Crow are constantly looking at ways for print and technology to meet. Often Nosy Crow books are published along with apps and accompaniments to offer additional activities as a 'leap off' point from enjoying a picture book. 

Moving on from QR codes to something slightly more science-fiction-like, developers and publishers are harnessing the power of tablets and netbooks to 'see' books in an entirely different way, even blurring the lines between the real world and the book world. 

Augmented Reality is a term that has been around for quite some time, particularly in videogames. With a simple camera to read (and sometimes even map in real time) an environment, players can see themselves on the TV screen holding game objects and seemingly manipulating them to further their progess. Coupled with motion controls, Augmented Reality's potential for immersion and involvement is massive. 

For print books, having an augmented reality enhancement could work in various ways, letting characters seemingly leap off the page and run around on your tabletop as you read. Though AR is still in its infancy, for a child there is something quite spectacular and magical about seeing an AR-enhanced game in action so imagine what it would be like if more books used AR to bring printed works to life. 

"The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore" is a title that uses an accompanying augmented reality 'app' (called the Imagine-o-tron - developed by Moonbot Studios) on the iPhone and iPad to offer just such an experience. If you have the book, you can download the app for 69p to provide realtime enhancement of the printed story (which you have to buy separately of course). The app 'scans' the pages using an iPad or iPhone's camera, and brings the story to life - and also offers children the chance to directly interact with the printed page elements too. 

Like 'Stories Aloud' this is also a brilliant example of the potential of mixing book and digital in new and exciting ways and something we'd love to see a lot more of in future. It's certainly a brilliant way to increase the readability and the 'shelf life' of a book, so here's to more in 2013 as these truly magical ideas can really involve children who might otherwise find books stale and boring.