Making a Connection With Interactive Children's Books
Though the very word "interactivity" conjures images of electronic gadgets, things to swipe, and other bells and whistles, it isn't a new concept for children's books. Publishers have been designing interactive content for quite a long time.
"There have been-literally, across centuries-any number of books that could be considered interactive," says Christopher Franceschelli, president and publisher of Brooklyn-based Handprint Books. "There were books with pop-up elements dating back to the 16th Century, and an extensive pop-up industry in Germany in the 19th Century. There was a renaissance for those here in the States during the 1960s and 1970s. And we've had sticker books, books with die-cut elements, scratch-and-sniff books, and holographic inserts. If you can think of it, it already exists, so there has been a long tradition of interactive books, long before the first ebook was ever contemplated."
Franceschelli also edited the English-language edition of The New York Times Bestseller Press Here -- its print version a stellar example of low-tech interactive content. Young children interact with the pages by "pressing" colorful dots which transition spread by spread into other colorful graphics, as though their touch is creating an action.
Press Here has been a resounding success -- 500,000 English-language copies sold, and more than a million copies worldwide, according to Franceschelli, who credits the engaging content for its popularity. "It underscored that level of interactivity, and a desire children have to be in control of their environment, therefore in control of their books. The child touches that first yellow dot, and something magical happens. That child knows innately that what happens when the page turns is not because of electronic wizardry hidden in the book, but the child's imagination that powers the action. And I think that's an incredibly empowering experience for a child. Press Here is sort of an anti-ebook. It was the artist's conscious effort to create something that did not need electronics to power, but rather the child."