ipicturebooks.com and ebooks for children

I joined ipicturebooks at the end of 2000. At present (July 2002) I am not working for ipicturebooks, as the company has retrenched while seeking second-round funding. I think ebooks for children will find a niche, but the market has been slower to develop than many, including me, had hoped. This page will expand into a more comprehensive introduction to children's ebooks; for now I've just got a few basic notes.

What are children's ebooks and why would anyone want one?

An ebook is just a book in electronic form. Like a book, it has a title, pages, and possibly other features such as chapters and illustrations. There are many different kinds of ebooks, but they all have some book-like qualities and can be distinguished on the one hand from electronic documents, which are essentially manuscripts, and on the other hand from software, which has more bells and whistles (perhaps literally, but perhaps just sounds, animation, or interactivity).

An ebook does not replace a book, but like a paperback being used instead of a hardcover, might play a useful role in circumstances where a physical book is not needed or is not available. An ebook is not for cuddling with at bedtime, but it might be a great way to keep many books in print, after a fashion. A library could expand its holdings of books without adding actual shelf space. The role of the ebook is still developing.

Children's ebooks will be a part of that market. I personally feel that children's books work nicely as ebooks. Though the market for ebooks so far is dominated by conversions of novels, this can be tiresome to read on screen. A 32-page picture book, on the other hand, looks great when converted carefully, and can be taken in easily

So what did ipicturebooks do and what comes next?

In a short period of time, ipicturebooks became by far the largest publisher of children's ebooks. By the spring of this year, we had licensed and converted over 1,000 titles, including in-print titles licensed from publishers and out-of-print titles from authors and illustrators.

In 2001, we tried to sell these to the consumer market. For various reasons, this didn't work. Starting last fall, we began to develop a service to allow schools and libraries to subscribe to any or all of the books in our "collection." This is already being test-marketed and I am pleased to see that this may succeed. I've thought all along that this was a more natural market for ebooks.

Unfortunately, our funding ran low just as this service was being launched (you can see it at www.childrenselibrary.com). Publishers and others who licensed books to ipicturebooks should not be concerned--your books will be made available. I just may not be there to see it happen. If additional funding comes in, ipicturebooks will expand this service. If it does not, I think someone else will develop something similar. It makes too much sense for this not to happen.

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