This article will look at the phenomenon of children’s E-books and its growth in recent years in Britain and its coming of effects in India. E-book are defined  as – “Any piece of electronic text regardless of size or composition (a digital object), but excluding journal publications, made available electronically (or optically) for any device (handheld or desk-bound) that includes a screen”. Children’s E-book is a wider concept, thus the focus is on the kids between 9– 19 years of age.

Research has shown that good E-books should have an audio read aloud technology to match the text, and also some digital features that will support vocabulary search. Children’s E-books are also the most anticipated books in digital format in terms of quality, yet consistent quality review of children’s E-books are harder to find. The sales of children’s E-books have grown by an incredible number, in the previous decade as compared to initial sales. The co-founder of the well-known charity organization ‘Seven Stories – National Center for Children’s Books’, Elizabeth Hammill, who is dedicated to promoting literacy heritage of children, came up with an idea to focus on children’s literature moving towards the digital age. This seems a lot effective because Britain has a one – to – one – iPad to a student ratio; although interactive E-books do not replace a good teacher but they definitely change the way our students read and use text because of their inter-activity and convenience.

Some research on UK schools has shown that school environment can potentially damage the reading enthusiasm for children although family members could be more responsible for improving reading habits of the children, the focus should be on more positivity. Children E-books are combination of advantages of printed books and capabilities of a computer. This seems more relevant because, there was a practical conducted with an e-reader, in special school for children with physical disabilities in east of England, where 9 years old Robert and Jane could read and enjoy images with text and dialogues and could understand the book through audio facility from the e-book reader respectively. More studies have also suggested that many schools in Britain had already started using iPad as their tool for studies since 2011 for the group age of 9-14, which even turned out to be a successful venture for students studying particularly Music, Religion and Maths. Some theories also claim that teachers are usually more suspicious about the introduction of new technology or media, but when surveyed most of them thought they would like to use e-readers for teaching in classrooms.

Modes of Education Delivery

India has always been a different market, and as observed above, the reading habits in disabled children can certainly be a game changer which can drive energy and motivation to focus on increasing academic awareness.

The overall sales of E-books have increased in adults as observed by HarperCollins India. This has not only turned India Publishers to focus on more Children’s Books but certainly has pushed them to drive it through in more efficient ways like more interactions and Audio Implementations with text. Indian Book Market is the 6th Largest in the world with valuation of approximately £3.1 Billions and has slowly and steadily grown, even though a lay man’s argument can give you a dimensional view of decreasing reading Habits in India. Children’s Book Publishers like Scholastics have more than 5000 Pop-Up Exhibitions in India. This can be a direct contradiction to 100 smart Cities pinned down by Govt. Of India which can easily give an average of 50 Exhibitions per City.

The pandemic on the other hand has not only made us aware about the technology but we have adopted it quite brilliantly, arguably. This is direct evidence that children are, if given an opportunity, can adapt to new ways than we actually think. Government’s boost on digitalisation is no less than an opportunity for Publishers to be more creative in Business and Content. According to articles published in Forbes and The Indian Express, the 80% Hike in the sale of E-Books in 2016 was just the start with more Mainstream Children’s Book Publishers and General Book Publishers registering increased sales upto 200%. The argument will go on if the sale is actually worth noting or just India’s Hunger for Discounts and Cashbacks offered by eCommerce Sites, but certainly we do think, a reading culture can be traditionalist way of adopting an Academic Driven Society – A Sham nod to Messaging Apps and Fake News.

“People always need knowledge and people always need stories, so from that point of view, the very core of the book industry I am sure is very strong. I’ll be really interested to see what the classroom of the future is because I think that will dictate a huge amount as to how future generations will engage with the written word … Or will it be the spoken word, but it will still be stories and it will still be knowledge, those aspects of books will still need to be curated. So, I think that the book, in whatever format, has a strong future,” – Jacks Thomas, Director of London Book Fair.

Talking about messaging apps and sidelining the pirated content shared and circulated on it, can be a bit criminal in terms of E-Books and its immediate effects on children and teenagers. PDFs and their circulation is a dangerous practise when it comes to E-Books. Teenagers are actively involving themselves knowingly and unknowingly in the piracy of eBooks. This makes publishers and the creative authors and illustrators to lose a large sum of money. This directly affects the certainty of getting good content in the future. Many Indian Language Publishers are worried about this growing trend and asking Government Officials to take some stern actions. As compared in the UK, the piracy is at par high as well, costing the industry approximately £40,000 to £70,000 every month. Although in return the unions are working closely with the officials to stop and make the punishments as severe as possible. This in comparison to Indian market can be a potentially dangerous activity for our thoughts and brains because the pirated books business as pinned down by TOI recently suggests that NCERT Officials Involvement in Piracy of NCERT Text Books.

Not just piracy but the whole structure of the Indian working nature can be a tall hurdle for us. The study conducted by Oxfam published by the World Economic Forum pops up many different questions like the nature of technology and its views in Indian parents. The study even comes down to 15% access to the Internet in Rural India and overall of just 29% of women internet users in the country of more than 1.4 Billion Population, where 270 millions are of those target age groups, which we are discussing about.

Such studies and facts are nothing but a mere downturn in time and efforts when we talk about children’s E-Book markets in India. But in comparison to piracy, in a very interesting way of pursuing technology, Pratham Books – An NGO Publisher for Children’s Books have started a Toll Free Number to listen to short stories on a telephone. This can be an epitome of Indian minds and creative brilliance. An average child is spending 20 minutes a day reading an Interactive eBook, which he argues is an amazing number. From this we can certainly conclude children’s E-Books are coming to life and certainly the Books and Publishing Industry is here to stay for much longer than anticipated. Maybe a few responsible efforts from the officials elected and the ones electing the officials need to cope up with changing times and demands of the younger age group.

Akhil Mehta

Armed with a Masters in Book Publishing, Akhil Mehta is a passionate researcher and a pioneer in digital publishing. He is currently working for a reputed publishing house in Pune.

The views and opinions expressed in the article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Tilak Chronicle and TTC Media Pvt Ltd.

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