Inside the business of children's digital media

New study examines print vs. eBooks for kids


As the popularity of digital book reading continues to grow, especially with younger ages, The Joan Ganz Cooney Center has conducted a new study that explores the differences in the way parents and their preschool-age children (three to six) interact when reading print books, basic eBooks and enhanced eBooks together.

Results from Print Books vs. EBooks, which The Cooney Center conducted in partnership with SciPlay at the New York Hall of Science in Queens, found that there were no differences between print books and eBooks in general, but differences were found between print books and enhanced eBooks.

Findings showed that parent-child pairs experienced less conversational engagement with the content of enhanced eBooks than when reading print books.

In addition, the reading of both types of eBooks, but especially enhanced eBooks brought on more non-content related talk and actions (behavior or device focused talk, pushing hands away) than print books.

Regarding story comprehension, kids who read enhanced eBooks remembered fewer narrative details than kids who read the print version of the same story, which may be related to the parent/child attention to non-content issues when reading both types of eBooks.

Measuring overall engagement, 63% of the pairs were as engaged reading print books as they were when reading both types of eBooks.

The implications of the study for eBook designers are that too much interactivity can hinder parent/child conversation and their focus on story content.

The Cooney Center recommends that parents and teachers should choose basic eBooks over enhanced digital eBooks if they want to support more literacy-focused co-reading experiences, and future research should examine the placement of features, reading modes, and games in enhanced eBooks as well as explore how lower income families and non-native English speaking families use them.

The full report can be accessed here.

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  • Hshaner88

    Interesting research! I work with free DIY e-publisher Booktango, and it’s always helpful to see new information about the industry.


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