eBooks Get Head Start on Young Readers

ImageThis week marks another small but adorable step forward for the move to digital. The world’s largest digital library for kids, MeeGenius Inc., announced a partnership with Fuhu Inc. to provide it’s library on the first Android tablet made especially for kids.It seems like a match made in elementary school heaven. Fuhu Inc is the company behind Nabi, an Android based tablet made especially for kids. It looks like a pretty standard Android tablet except that it has a large red rubber bumper around the edges to make it more kid friendly/resilient. It also has case/stand combos available to make the tablet look like a leopard or a dinosaur, making it easier for very young children who are lacking in coordination. I’m an adult and I drop my iPhone several times a day, so the though of putting a tablet in the hands of a child seems a risky, but I have to admit I see it more and more often out in public.

However, wrapping a tablet in rubber to ‘kid-proof’ it doesn’t mean they’ll use it. What makes the Nabi tablet so great for kids is that it is designed to be navigated by children. The home screen offers large, colorful buttons for each app, an easy enough system for today’s tech savvy youth. Nabi plays games like Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja, it plays movies in hi-def, has educational apps like Fooz Kids University, and now, thanks to MeeGenius it has hundreds of children’s stories as well.

Launched almost two years ago, MeeGenius digitizes children’s stories and makes them available on Google and Apple iOS devices like the iPhone and iPad. At just a few dollars a piece, these books won’t break the bank. Each story can be read by flipping through it like a normal eBook, or you can listen as the book is read aloud and follow along as it highlights each word as it’s read.

This kind of partnership may seem a small shift in the world of eBooks, but I believe it is more than that. While it won’t help today’s cash strapped college students avoid high textbook prices, it does mean tomorrows college student’s will have increasingly grown up reading eBooks for pleasure and for school. That is to say, any move to digital is a step towards cheaper books that are easier to use and easier to get. Just as we are watching a generation mature that has always had cell phones and Internet in their lives, next we will see students who expect to use eBooks for learning and the demands (and wallets) of these students will accelerate our move to digital.

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