I am usually an early adopter of new technology. However, eBook readers have left me cold, and I haven’t been able to work up any enthusiasm for them. That is, until I got my iPad. I love my iPad. I use it copiously. And I particularly love the overlap of apps between it and my iPhone. I can have pretty much the same apps on both, and just use whichever device comes to hand. There are two main eBook readers available for the iPhone and iPad – Apple’s iBooks for iPhone and iPad, and Amazon’s Kindle for iPhone and iPad. Both apps are free, and some free books are available for each format, but in general you need to buy the books you wish to read.
The geekson is now three months old, and I’m a great believer in setting a bedtime routine from an early age. So I’ve already started reading him a short story before bedtime. Of course at this age he doesn’t understand the words, so I’m trying to pick out rhyming books (the Miffy series are a personal favourite) so that he gets used to the pattern and rhythm of the words. The geekdaughter is almost three, and a real bookworm. She loves having stories read to her, and can recite several favourite books from memory. She loves books like The Gruffalo and Meg and Mog. I would love to get some books like these onto my iPhone and iPad, books that the geek-kids enjoy that I would always have with me, easily accessible for whenever required. It would mean if we were away from home, either in a planned or unplanned fashion (we’ve already had unplanned hospital stays for each of our kids), we could still bring some familiarity into the bedtime routine in the form of a favourite book.
And this is where I have my main gripe. Neither Apple’s iBookstore nor the Amazon Kindle bookstore are easy to browse. Which means if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for, you’re left lost and wandering through a sea of unsuitable books. And quite often the book I’m looking for is not available in eBook form, so I spend hours in a long, fruitless search. So what I’d like is to be able to browse the books in both stores, specifically the books suitable for babies and pre-schoolers.
In Apple’s iBookstore they have a “Children and Teens” category. If I try to browse this category I am simply presented with a list of all the authors who have one or more books in this category. It’s quite a long list, and as far as I can tell the only option I have is to click on each author in turn, and then each book in turn to see if it is suitable for my children. Now in my mind, the category “Children and Teens” is just too wide – there’s a big difference between a book that would be suitable for a three year old and a book that would be suitable for a thirteen year old, and it’s just not helpful at all to have all such books grouped together.
In Amazon UK’s Kindle store there are at least some subcategories of their “Children’s Books” section, but they’re really not very useful in helping me find what I want:
In attempting to find suitable eBooks for my children I came across the @KindleKids Twitter account, where new and noteable kids books on Kindle are announced. It’s US-based, and some books they mention may not be available in the UK, but they are very helpful people. I asked them if they knew any suitable books for young children, and they sent me a link to the Amazon.com US Kindle store, which has some more useful subcategories for their Kindle books catelogue. Specifically in their “Children’s Book” section is exactly what I was looking for – a “Baby – 3” category! I was very disappointed to discover that there are only 11 books in this section, and a very limited selection indeed. Nothing that really fitted what I was looking for for my kids. And as my Kindle account is registered as a UK account I can’t buy from Amazon.com. So I end up in the silly situation where I have to browse for books on Amazon.com, and then switch over to Amazon.co.uk to search for the specific book I’ve found, and then find out if it’s available in the UK or not.
I have noticed on Amazon.co.uk that there is a link on each book’s product page that says “Tell the publisher: I’d like to read this book on Kindle”, which I’ve been clicking on every time I’m looking at a book that my kids love. I don’t know if the publishers take any notice of this at all, but it feels like the only thing I can do to communicate that I want to use the eBook format more, but can’t find the books that I want.
In the meantime, I’m continuing to watch out for suitable eBooks for my kids, and will of course report here on my progress. I am aware that there are many “single book” applications, and in fact we possess several of these which I shall review separately, but I’m specifically trying to find a collection of stories that the geekdaddy and I can read to our kids ourselves.
I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments – have you found any great eBooks for your kids?