In October, The New York Times commented on the demise of the picture book, claiming that in the US, picture books are so unpopular that bookshops finally end up returning unwanted books to the publisher. The article blames this downturn on pushy parents, the economic downturn and the rise of YA fiction. Is this the end of the picture book?
Well, not yet! Like the rest of the publishing world, children’s picture books are finally moving into the digital era. They might have been slow on the uptake, but an increasing number of picture books are now appearing as e-books. Yesterday, HarperCollins Children’s Books announced the release of a picture book iPad app: none other than Oliver Jeffers’ The Heart and the Bottle.
Using the touch screen, children will be able to fully engage and interact with the story, which is read by the wonderful Helena Bonham Carter. They can have the story read to them, or they can read it themselves. The app strikes a much sought after balance between the lure of video games and television, and the necessity of reading. I don’t own a kindle or an iPad, and I’ve never taken to reading e-books, but if this is what it takes to revitalise the picture book and encourage children to read, then it’s quite simply genius.
The parents will be the nostalgic ones: no more taking the little ones to the library to choose six new books; no more choosing a favourite story from the bookshelf at bedtime; and no bundles of books under the Christmas tree.
HarperCollins aren’t the only publishers savvy to this sort of technology, Puffin are at it too. Launched in November this year, The Puffin Digital Prize gives writers, illustrators or designers the chance to design and create their own digital picture books and to even have them published.
Released in December 2010, The Heart and the Bottle is sure to be a big hit. So what now for the picture book? In the official press release, Digital Publishing Manager of HarperCollins Children’s Book says: “We think it’s both a benchmark in digital picture book publishing and a sign of incredible things to come from HarperCollins Children’s Books.”
See what all the fuss is about, here: