Category Archives: BookFlix

New Project!

I have just started working on a brand new project: designing a digital storytime at a medium sized suburban library system. The plan is to augment a traditional storytime (probably aimed at preschool kids, or family storytime) and use an iPad, hooked up to a projector to display our content: eBooks and apps.

Part of my challenge is to choose WHICH apps and eBooks to use.  I have Felt Board which I think we’ll use extensively for songs, fingerplays and some simple stories, and I’m going to try my hand at some draw and tell stories with some kind of drawing app. I have Chalk Pad right now and I’m going to check out Adobe Ideas as well (that might be like killing a flea with a sledgehammer though).

I’m going to go through Axis 360 to check out what kind of picture books they have on offer, and to test them out to see how well they’d do projected onto a screen. Tumblebooks and Bookflix are troublesome both in display and in format; we’ll see how Axis 360 and Blio measure up. Read a little more about Baker and Taylor’s stab at ebooks here.

Part of what we’ll have to figure out is just how much digital content to include.  The program should still support the acquisition of the 6 Early Literacy Skills, and should include wiggling, stomping, singing, audience participation etc, but the vehicle that we use to share some of our goodies will be changing.

I’ve never performed a digital storytime to a room full of preschoolers, but I have done lots of old school storytimes, and I’m hoping we can use these digital tools to successfully and seamlessly share digital early literacy programming with our communities.


BookFlix Review

Image Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson
A Bear Cub Grows Up by Pam Zollman
Free on BookFlix

BookFlix is an online eBook service provided by Scholastic, and is available through your public library’s website.  We really enjoy the tree versions of Wilson’s Bear books: Bear’s Loose Tooth, Bear Wants More, Bear’s New Friend etc.  These well-rhymed books tell stories about a brown bear and his woodland companions; in this one, bear sleeps through howling wind, the crackling of a fire, the popping of popcorn and the sounds of merrymaking.  Bear only awakens when a flake of pepper flies up his nose and he sneezes himself to consciousness, at which point he laments that his friends have been enjoying themselves without him. There is no interactivity, but light animation like snow falling and dancing creatures add interest to an already adorable book.

There is a menu on the left hand side with links for reading the picture book, the non-fiction book, puzzles based on the books, information about the author, and websites for further reading (includes a disclaimer about the content of the websites because they’re not affiliated with Scholastic.)

BookFlix pairs fiction books with non-fiction books on a similar topic.  The non-ficition pairing for this book is A Bear Cub Grows Up, which was more enjoyable to read than I expected.  I viewed both of these books on a laptop, which made the experience less let’s-cuddle-up-and-read and more let’s-learn-about-bears. The interface is a little clunky, and you have to use the mouse to navigate, which is harder for little hands to master than swiping on a tablet. That said, the text is clear, the pictures good and there are vocabulary words highlighted within the text that you can hover over, and the definition pops up, along with an ear icon that you can click on to hear the word pronounced.  The Read Along function can be turned On or Off at any time and the volume control is right below the text (the sounds quality differs from book to book).

eBookNewser is now AppNewser

I have issues with the whole app vs ebook nomenclature, and it appears that the good folks at mediabistro have the same issues.  Or not anymore, given that they are changing eBookNewser to AppNewser. You can still click on their eBook News link to get information specifically on eBooks, but they are widening their focus to include all kinds of apps.

So what should we call these THINGS we read to our children on our iPads, Nooks, Tablets or Kindles? Obviously the terminology is going to continue evolving with the technology itself, but as it is now, I think of “eBooks” mainly as books in electronic form.  An eBook can be a file downloaded to a device or accessed online through a service like TumbleBooks or Bookflix. eBooks follow a linear narrative path, much like a tree-book, and you turn pages to progress along that path. Most of the time eBooks are based on books that have already been published in print (the good ones, anyway) but I think we’ll see more an more eBooks for kids that are only published electronically.  eBooks can be a type of app (not if you’re viewing them through a website, though), but for our purposes, apps are more like games or activities.

The PC Magazine Encyclopedia provides the following definitions:

Definition of: app 

(1) (APPlication) The term has been used as shorthand for “application” in the IT community for a long time. However, it became newly popular for mobile applications in smartphones and tablets, especially due to the advent of Apple’s iTunes App Store in 2008. It is just as correct to say “iPhone application” as it is “desktop computer app;” although app is shorter, and computer people love to abbreviate. See applicationAPP fileand App Store.

(2) (APPlication) In the engineering world, an app can refer to a circuit design, using the word “application” in the context of purpose. For example, “high-voltage apps” means high-voltage circuit designs. The term predates mobile software apps by decades.

Definition of: e-book 

(Electronic-BOOK) The electronic counterpart of a printed book, which can be viewed on a desktop computer, laptop, smartphone or e-book reader. When traveling, a large number of e-books can be stored in portable units, dramatically eliminating weight and volume compared to paper. Electronic bookmarks make referencing easier, and e-book readers may allow the user to annotate pages.

Although fiction and non-fiction books come in e-book formats, technical material is especially suited for e-book delivery because it can be searched. In addition, programming code examples can be quickly copied, which is why CD-ROMs that contain the entire text of the work are often packaged inside technical paper books.

E-Book Formats
The major problem with e-books is the many formats competing for prime time, including Adobe PDF, Microsoft Reader, eReader, Mobipocket Reader, EPUB, Kindle and iPad.

All e-book formats have a search capability, but most do not support a direct dictionary lookup, which means if a person looks up the term “network,” all the definitions that contain the word “network” are retrieved rather than the single definition of that term. The results are akin to the mountain of results retrieved by a search engine.

Amazon’s Kindle and Apple’s iPad
In late 2007, revolutionized the e-book market with the introduction of its Kindle e-book reader and e-book inventory. The Kindle was the first e-book to offer free, wireless access to download e-books and search the Web (see Kindle).

In early 2010, Apple introduced the iPad tablet, featuring “iBooks” downloadable over a Wi-Fi or 3G connection (see iPad). See PDFiPadEPUB,Open eBook and Mobipocket.

Inaugural Little eLit

Hooray! This is the inaugural post documenting our experiences with eBooks.  Little J and I sat on the couch, fired up the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and went to our library’s website.  

“eBooks!” said Little J.
“eBooks!” said I.  
“Password!” said Scholastic.

Scholastic’s BookFlix portal, when accessed from the link from our library’s website, has got to be the most boring way to begin an eBook adventure EVER. I assume this is a general log in page for a number of services that Scholastic offers.  

How dull! You’d think they’d at LEAST add a dancing banana to amuse us while we wait!”  said Little J. (He’s two. I might be paraphrasing what he said a little.)

We dutifully typed in our library card number and waited with bated breath, sans banana.  

“We read Boo Hoo Bird?” said Little J hopefully, holding up his paper copy of Jeremy Tankard’s awesome book.
“Wait a minute for it to load, baby.  We’re going to read an eBook!”  

Two years olds love waiting for websites to load almost as much as they love waiting for Laurie Berkner to buffer on YouTube. We gave up on Bookflix and moved on to Tumblebooks.

The Tumblebooks “library” is organized into six sections: storybooks, read alongs, tumble tv, puzzles & games, language learning and non-fiction books. We were on the prowl for a good yarn, so we clicked “storybooks” and chose a book from the first page: Bonnie Farmer and Chum McLeod’s ABC Letters in the Library.

Tumblepad, the software that Tumblebooks uses to display its content, didn’t require installation- it just popped up when we chose our eBook (we will try downloading an eBook for use without an internet connection in future posts). I liked the dashboard well enough, but the display area didn’t shrink to fit onto our screen. I had to scroll around every now and then to see the text. That seems like a pretty basic requirement: fitting onto the screen. I tried a number of other eBooks and had the same problem. I tried holding the tablet portrait and landscape. No dice.

We got through ABC Letters in the Library, mostly because it was our very FIRST Little eLit eBook and I was trying to be magnanimous about it all.  ABC Letters in the Library contains forced rhymes and outdated views on what a public library is all about. See an extended review this book here.

One redeeming feature was the “zed” at the end of the alphabet.  My Canadianism squeed at that, even if the rest of the book was a flop. Little J reminds me that the elephant at the end of the book was also a redeeming feature.

“He eating his lamp!”

Whatever cooks your noodle, kid.