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Old 05-29-2009, 08:48 AM   #1
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Five-Year-old Versus Sony Reader (on Teleread)

I just posted this article to Teleread and thought it might interest people here---it's about using an ebook reader with small children. There were some things about the little experiment which surprised me and which I would not have thought of if I had not seen it in action myself. For example, they had no trouble grasping the concept of the reader, the benefits of it, its basic operation etc. But children this age tend to touch the words as they read, and I can see this being an issue if people want to use ebook readers with kids. Either they will smudge the heck out of your screen as they follow the words with their fingers, or worse, they'll keep turning the pages by accident---or exiting the book altogether---if the reader is touchscreen-based. Therefore I would be very cautious about using any sort of touchscreen with kids, and if I let them at my Sony again, I would bring a stylus with me so that they could point without smudging up my screen. Anyway, article here.
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Old 05-29-2009, 09:06 AM   #2
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Interesting read....

As to what you wrote, one problem I have with a stylus and small children is 'jabbing'... Young children often have issues with realizing how much force is too much force.... I could easily see a stylus cracking the screen in their hands... Perhaps a -very- soft silicone stylus would be in order?

-MJ
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Old 05-29-2009, 11:36 AM   #3
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Great article Ficbot. Very well written and very informative. I have been shopping for a reader for a little while now and I have been trying to keep in mind that my 3 littlen's will undoubtedly want some time on it as well. Also thanks for the two story book ideas that were in your article. Excellent Job.
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Old 05-29-2009, 02:39 PM   #4
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Interesting read....

As to what you wrote, one problem I have with a stylus and small children is 'jabbing'... Young children often have issues with realizing how much force is too much force.... I could easily see a stylus cracking the screen in their hands... Perhaps a -very- soft silicone stylus would be in order?

-MJ
Given the number of adults who've poked (rather hard, too) at my 505, expecting it to be a touchscreen (even after I've told them it's not!), I, too, would not have a good expection of letting a child use a stylus on a 700. I'd rather deal with the fingerprints than risk a broken screen.
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Old 05-29-2009, 04:08 PM   #5
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Good point about the stylus issue. My more pressing concern would be letting them go at a touchscreen at all. Given that they are taught at this age to point as they read, I am just picturing them accidentally turning pages and exiting the book every time they touch a word, and I don't think that is a problem ebook manufacturers thought of when designing these sorts of products. If we ever do get to a point where the tech is cheap enough and the books available enough that someone wants to market a reader specifically for kids, the touching issue will have to be addressed. Either you don't have a touchscreen and you have a tool they can use to point with, or you do have a touchscreen but you are able to lock it somehow so they can do some things by touching (e.g. have a word read to them?) but not have to worry about them turning the pages by mistake...
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Old 05-29-2009, 04:27 PM   #6
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very interesting article, ficbot, thanks for sharing it. good timing, too ; i recently showed my own reader to a (grownup ) friend. she loves books (as objects) and was initially quite resistant to the idea although within 5 minutes she started to come around, thinking about having several books with her at all times, as long as no-one tries to make her give up her paper books... but she mentioned that in her opinion, people "her age" (she's about 50) won't be interested in such devices (well, i think she's wrong, but that's her opinion anyway) but the real market for these devices is children ; they grow up with technology so they won't have the same resistance she envisions for her generation. but, as you said, and as she also pointed out, there have to be children's books available as well, or the whole idea is pointless.

i think there really is a market for children's ebooks and i wonder if anyone has any plans for it ? definitely something to look out for.
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Old 05-29-2009, 05:31 PM   #7
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Fictionwise has quite a lot of children's books. Haven't bought any, so I can't vouch for them, but I know they're there. Tell your friend that most Kindle owners are over 40, it's been shown. I'm sure the demographic for ebook readers skews kinda old and kinda female (we're the heaviest readers, after all).

I'm your friend's age, and I'm the 'first kid on the block' to have one where I live. Now I have half my friends wanting one (although they're all still balking at the price).
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Old 05-29-2009, 05:41 PM   #8
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Fictionwise has quite a lot of children's books. Haven't bought any, so I can't vouch for them, but I know they're there. Tell your friend that most Kindle owners are over 40, it's been shown. I'm sure the demographic for ebook readers skews kinda old and kinda female (we're the heaviest readers, after all).

I'm your friend's age, and I'm the 'first kid on the block' to have one where I live. Now I have half my friends wanting one (although they're all still balking at the price).
good to know there are children's books. and believe me, i did tell her there were a lot of people "her age" loving ebooks.
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Old 05-29-2009, 09:03 PM   #9
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My 5 year old uses a stylus on my DS all the time and I've never had any problem with him hitting to hard or getting confused. He plays brain age fairly successfully for a 5 year old. His brain age is 87. He can also type halfway decent so maybe he is a bit better at these things than a lot of 5 year olds.
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Old 05-29-2009, 09:22 PM   #10
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Good point about the stylus issue. My more pressing concern would be letting them go at a touchscreen at all. Given that they are taught at this age to point as they read, I am just picturing them accidentally turning pages and exiting the book every time they touch a word, and I don't think that is a problem ebook manufacturers thought of when designing these sorts of products. If we ever do get to a point where the tech is cheap enough and the books available enough that someone wants to market a reader specifically for kids, the touching issue will have to be addressed. Either you don't have a touchscreen and you have a tool they can use to point with, or you do have a touchscreen but you are able to lock it somehow so they can do some things by touching (e.g. have a word read to them?) but not have to worry about them turning the pages by mistake...
in 5 years or more in specialty schools, 10-20 in public schools, I can see super rugged versions perhaps being used for kids.

currently the tech is too fragile but I think it would get better in time, but, wireless capability is a must, that way teachers can download passages directly to the students "PDA" and perhaps they can do homework on them too if they have a touch screen. but ebook readers are the closest thing to the Epaper that I was told I would get by the time I was in high school when I was a kid, everyone wanted it. but the closest thing to it currently is no where near what was promised.
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Old 05-30-2009, 02:38 AM   #11
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My nine year old uses my 505 on a regular basis and has no problem navigating through the menus, setting bookmarks, and enlarging text. He is very careful handling the device and understands why he needs to be careful with the screen. He uses a laptop at school and at home, so is very comfortable and careful with technology.

I do think ebook devices will eventually be used in schools or some type of PDA.
Most of the ebooks for children at the moment are for older children -- there is very little for children under 6 years -- I suspect because younger children do need illustrations to help them with decoding text. I have written to several publishers asking for ebook versions of children's books, but none have ever replied to my emails.

ficbot -- you can also type up your pupils writing and put it on the reader for them to read. Great for children who are reluctant readers / writers.
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Old 05-30-2009, 06:08 AM   #12
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Interesting read....

As to what you wrote, one problem I have with a stylus and small children is 'jabbing'... Young children often have issues with realizing how much force is too much force.... I could easily see a stylus cracking the screen in their hands... Perhaps a -very- soft silicone stylus would be in order?

-MJ
I think that won't happen too fast. Children do know exactly when something isn't up to lots of force. Remember, kids these days grow up with electronics and all the breakable stuff. I think you've more to worry about them dropping it (and a good casing helps in that case).

Nice written story, ficbot! Loved reading it and it only shows that the advent of electronic readers and electronic books is held back by those ancient, frozen-in-place, non-looking-ahead type of people!
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Old 05-30-2009, 07:05 AM   #13
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My 5 year old uses a stylus on my DS all the time and I've never had any problem with him hitting to hard or getting confused. He plays brain age fairly successfully for a 5 year old. His brain age is 87. He can also type halfway decent so maybe he is a bit better at these things than a lot of 5 year olds.
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I think that won't happen too fast. Children do know exactly when something isn't up to lots of force. Remember, kids these days grow up with electronics and all the breakable stuff. I think you've more to worry about them dropping it (and a good casing helps in that case).
I don't think these would be good examples, either case involves devices that are inherently more durable. The DS really was designed to take a 'jabbing'. Current generation ebook devices are fairly fragile by comparison. Mostly due to the technologies. Current gen eInk is definitely rather fragile. Now, if VTech designed a reader with kids in mind with a LCD screen, I'd say sure...

-MJ
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Old 05-30-2009, 10:02 AM   #14
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I don't think these would be good examples, either case involves devices that are inherently more durable. The DS really was designed to take a 'jabbing'. Current generation ebook devices are fairly fragile by comparison. Mostly due to the technologies. Current gen eInk is definitely rather fragile. Now, if VTech designed a reader with kids in mind with a LCD screen, I'd say sure...

-MJ
Oh, I wouldn't give an "adult" version of such a device to a child. Besides, we're talking about development here! And isn't a new gen e-ink in the making? A plastic substrate variety should be able to handle more stess and be perfectly capable of surviving small children Especially if you make the casing to fit that mentality (adding some "bouncing" material might help!)
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Old 05-30-2009, 01:15 PM   #15
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Oh, I wouldn't give an "adult" version of such a device to a child. Besides, we're talking about development here! And isn't a new gen e-ink in the making? A plastic substrate variety should be able to handle more stess and be perfectly capable of surviving small children Especially if you make the casing to fit that mentality (adding some "bouncing" material might help!)
That's what I was referring to about the jabbing problem. The glass substrate eInk and similar LCD screens I wouldn't give to them. But I'm with you on next-gen devices designed with them in mind. The EBW1150 and the Pocketbook 360 are nice designs, just a bit more kid friendly and I'd think they'd be great for it. I'd go with a bit bigger screen like 8" however.

One thing I do worry about is that most people seem to have a view of the plastic substrate eInk as some uber-material. You can still crease, dent and puncture it. It is very durable in that it will continue to work and won't crack like glass substrate, but you can still kill 'pixels' and leave lines, spots and such permanently damaged. Watch that insane destruction of the Esquire eInk for an example of what I mean.

-MJ
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