When the Hammock children, both now over two-decades old, were brand new, they were never more than a few inches away from an Eric Carle book. (The Very Hungry Caterpillar* is likely the book I have read out-loud more times than any other book ever published, except, now that I think of it, Good Night Moon.)
So it caught my eye recently when reading about next month’s launch of the Kindle Fire — that it is going to include a 1000-title (at launch) collection of children’s books formatted especially for the Fire, including Carle’s classic (among Hammock children and millions more), Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?.
I’ve seen some punditry that suggests these “books” are likely to make it to other Kindle reading formats (which makes sense, as Amazon makes money from selling content, not hardware). But those pundits aparently haven’t let it fully sink in that the Kindle Fire will not just be an ebook reader, it is an Android pad (tablet) device. It’s a computer with a touch screen.
So, despite having the word book in their names, this collection of Kindle Fire formatted children’s books are as much apps as they are books. If that assumption is correct, then the “appification” of 1,000-books (or 1,000 apps) of children’s book/apps before the Kindle Fire launch next month appears to be heavily subsidized by Amazon. Book publishers, especially the long-tail of small-house children’s book publishers, are already strapped keeping up with two formats (iOS and Kindle) to support yet another format, the Kindle Fire version of Android (which, like iOS apps, must be approved by Amazon before making it onto the Kindle Fire).
However, as always, some creative entrepreneurs started thinking about books as software long ago. The Kindle Fire could be their overnight success that took ten years to happen. For example, the decade-old company, zuuka, publishes iStory Time apps for the iPad via iTunes and will have Fire formatted books on day one.
Perhaps because of those young Hammocks and my (even then) obsession with the whole paper-digital connection, about 15-years ago, an early Hammock project was a magazine advertorial that appeared in Family Fun magazine that was sponsored by several pioneer developers of what used to be called back then, edutainment — think Madden NFL meets Richard Scarry’s Busytown. Long-gone (at least as independent entities) companies like Brøderbund sponsored it.
No doubt, had there been a Kindle Fire around in the early 1990s, the brand new Hammocks would have asked for Brown Bear, Brown Bear to be read over-and-over on that device, as well.
One thing any parent can tell you about children and their books: there is no such thing as a child getting tired of being read the same book over-and-over — nor, do I guess, being read (and playing with) the same book on too many apps in too many formats.
*All Amazon.com links go to my affiliate store. I think I’m up to $1.75 in commissions this year.