Book Business EXTRA! Q&A -- World Books’ Paul Kobasa talks about the changing landscape of encyclopedias
Paul Kobasa, World Book vice president, editorial and editor in chief, chats with Book Business EXTRA! about World Book Kids, the new interactive Web-based tool aimed at younger students and their educators that the company recently released.
Book Business EXTRA! -- With the vast array of information available online, what has kept a reference publisher, such as World Book, relevant to computer-savvy children and young adults in recent years?
Paul Kobasa -- There is a massive amount of content on the Web--so much so that it can be difficult for students to find the discrete information they need. That’s a leading reason why students continue to turn to World Book--in both its online and print forms--for accurate, authoritative and timely information that is easy to find and apply to their needs.
EXTRA! -- What led World Book to develop a site like World Book Kids that was specifically geared toward younger readers?
Kobasa --The Internet experience is not always a rewarding one for children – particularly young children and children who become discouraged by information overload. They are capable of getting online and conducting searches. But often these searches result in a huge number of hits, many of which simply aren’t relevant, are inappropriate for the younger user, or are outdated and otherwise inaccurate. We want to provide young readers with a positive search experience by creating for them an easily navigable environment and content tailored to their comprehension levels and learning modes. We started with our award-winning 13-volume Student Discovery Encyclopedia. But rather than merely producing an online version of it, we worked to make the content come alive by exploiting the capabilities of the online environment.
EXTRA! --What’s the target audience for World Book Kids, and how much of that audience is coming primarily to the electronic form of World Book as opposed to the print version? What’s the trend in sales of digital vs. print encyclopedias these days?
Kobasa -- The primary audience for World Book Kids is children in the K-4 age range. It’s also ideal for special-needs learners. Across the industry, we’re hearing that sales of print encyclopedias remain steady, while sales of information in digital form are climbing.
EXTRA! -- About how many students are initially expected to interact with World Book Kids as part of World Book Online Reference Center (WBORC)?
Kobasa It’s difficult to determine the exact number of students that will use World Book Kids. Initially, we’ve included it at as part of our World Book Online Reference Center, which is a leading general reference and learning resource in classrooms, school library media centers, and public libraries across the U.S. and Canada. Based on historical usage figures for WBORC, I feel confident that hundreds of thousands of children soon will be making use of World Book Kids.
EXTRA! -- How did World Book want Douglas Love to make World Book Kids unique from any other reference tools available to students? What was of top priority?
Kobasa -- Douglas Love is a well-known author of children’s books and producer of innovative children’s educational television programs. We asked him to help us create a site that not only enables children to access information easily but helps them to absorb and retain it in the ways most effective for them. With Love’s guidance, we have built three categories of activities into World Book Kids, reflecting children’s different learning modes. “Think It!” activities are designed for children that respond to facts and figures. “Be It!” activities are for those students that learn from role-playing. And “Make It!” activities are geared to tactile learners that need to feel and manipulate objects.
We also want World Book Kids to be a resource for educators, so Douglas created “Teach It!” guides correlated to each activity. The “Teach It!” guides provide teachers and librarians with tips about applying the activities to a variety of core subjects and show correlations to pertinent national standards. Educators can turn to World Book Kids as an easy-to-use resource for both helping their students learn and helping themselves create lesson plans that meet curriculum standards.
Above all, the content of World Book Kids has to reflect World Book’s traditional criteria for editorial excellence: accuracy, authority, comprehensibility, impartiality and utility.
EXTRA! -- What elements of the site, that make children interact with the content instead of passively reading articles, have taken off with test groups/actual users?
Kobasa -- Users are responding to the World Book Kids activities that propel them away from their computers and out into the world to explore and create. For example, one of the activities featured in World Book Kids is “Animal Tracks,” which turns a student into a naturalist exploring his or her own schoolyard or backyard. There are dozens of other activities as well. Also, we’ve included a feature called “Play It!” which allows students to browse the site by following a virtual trail of interconnected questions. Each question, when answered correctly, rewards the student with a congratulatory animation and brings him or her to a related topic on the continuing trail until the student loops back to the starting point. “Play It!” can help students grasp the dimensionality of a subject without loosing sight of the core information.