New readers

Technology and communications experts heralded the arrival of the iPad with predictions that it would change Americans’ mobile computing and media habits.

One of the first things that senior Dana Payes noticed was its embrace of children’s literature. (Every iPad comes pre-installed with a copy of A.A. Milne’s kiddie classic, Winnie the Pooh.)

The English major, who is currently working on a senior seminar research project concerning the intersection of technology and books for kids, sees Apple’s embrace of children as a clever marketing ploy, but she also believes that no e-reader, whatever its strengths, can replace a paper book.

Payes wrote a short essay on the subject with the help of her advisor, Professor of English Paula Krebs, and The Baltimore Sun published it on Friday, April 23. The pair lauded the iPad’s promise as a means for encouraging reading activities between child and parent, but they wrote:

We can share technology with our kids. But let’s not mistake reading a book on an iPad for reading a book. Reading an electronic version of “The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People” on a train is not the same thing as reading an iPad bedtime story with your kids.

Prior to the iPad’s introduction, the senior from Rockville, Maryland, says that children’s literature has been mostly unavailable in e-reader format.

“In my paper I am exploring the reasons why this market went neglected for so long. I am focusing on three contributing factors: inability for technology to accommodate illustrations, inability for new media to reproduce parental nostalgia, and the fear that children will be more media literate than their parents.”

The research builds off Payes’ lifetime fascination with the stories of childhood. “I have always been interested in children’s literature and I wondered how or if e-readers would accommodate children’s books,” she said. “Even with iPad’s new, smart effort to reach out to parents, this paper aims to emphasize that new media experience is an exploration in new media that is unequivocally different than reading a physical book.”