Tom Bonnick: What Makes a Good (and Bad!) Reading App
Noisy Crow's Business Development Manager on what to look for in a reading app
Using a screen, using an app, is not fundamentally the same experience as reading a book. They are very different experiences, there's a difference in tactile experiences, you know, they're different intellectual experiences in terms of how passive or active a reader you are. The best reading apps are ones that really take advantage of the potential of a device; so they might use interactivity, they might use animation, they might use a lot of audio they might use things like text highlighting, they can offer kind of multi-branching narratives, they can offer all these different ways of telling a story that maybe aren't available in print. In my experience, apps aren't really competing with print books for a child's attention. What they're competing with are all the other things that a child could be doing on an iPad. So, it's an app or a film, or a game, or surfing the Internet, listening to music, all the other things they could be doing on this device, and so I kind of believe children are using devices every day and reading should be one of the things they can do on that device. A good app is one that, for instance, uses interactivity to enhance a story and to drive a narrative forward. And a bad app on that scale would be one where interactivity distracts from the story, where you can move away from story and reading, and just kind of play a little game on the side. I think that's not really helpful. I've seen fairy tale versions of Three Little Pigs where the houses are blown down by the wolf, but then immediately spring back up and then you can blow them down again because it's fun, and I think that's completely harmful to the story, because the houses have to blow down and stay down, that’s what that story's about. It's about hard work being rewarded and laziness being punished. In other versions of the Three Little Pigs you can blow the house down and it stays down. And the act of blowing that house down yourself teaches you something about the story, it's sympathetic to the narrative of the story. So I think apps can do all those sorts of things, I think print has a whole other set of values and virtues, but it's fundamentally a different experience.