Friday, August 20, 2010

It Was Weird

I’ve just experienced one of the oddest bits of reading I’ve ever come across. Actually, I’ve misspoken. I didn’t really read the story. It was read to me by Harry Connick, Jr. Usually, I disregard all of the ads that show up on the NY Times electronic edition of the newspaper. Especially the very large ads that tend to displace the area just over the headlines. But today the ad was billed as: The First Shoppable Children’s Story Book, The RL Gang, A Fantastically Amazing School Adventure. So I clicked.

The video, I wouldn’t call it an electronic or audio book, takes the format of an illustrated picture book with a group of children going to the first day of school. There they meet an “incredibly incredible” school teacher who magically sets them on a path of self-discovering that teaches the children life lessons of kindness and sharing. The child actors silently play out their roles while being superimposed on illustrations that resemble a children’s picture book format. As the story progresses we see actions that mimic the reading of a story book.

All through the video the viewer is invited to scroll over one of the adorable child actors and shop for the outfits the characters are wearing. At the end of the video you can also click on any of the characters and enter their closet to purchase their “1st, 2nd or 3rd look”.

What astounded me was that the product was billed as a “Children’s Story Book”. In my last post I wrote about how authors and publishers target and market reading products for young people. And I think there is great value in providing different types of reading experiences for every age group. To do so you do need to discover what the reader likes and what would appeal to every age group. In fact, I would say that if a public library is not providing age-appropriate books and various types of media then they’re missing the boat. This experience which delivers a line of products under the guise of children’s reading is targeted to adults. I guess a child could sit on a parents lap and watch the video, and no doubt enjoy the experience, but I’m thinking that very few children have the NY Times as their homepage or cruse over to it during the course of the day to read a few articles. No, this is an international business using the reading experience as a way to sell clothes. It is possible to actually purchase a hard cover copy of the product. It is sold by TikaTok, which is a Barnes & Noble company.

Anyone who has read my previous posts knows that I am a big believer in providing electronic content to patrons. I also think that a public library should also provide access to education of it’s patrons in the use of electronic products. In many cases the electronic medium is superior to what has been provided in the past. One quick example is access to journals through aggregated databases. Not only is the finding of articles faster, but it also allows the searcher to refine or widen their search very easily. At the same time I also like walking through the stacks and picking books off the shelves to read. To me the experience is similar to walking through a fruit orchard. You look for what appeals to you and you simply pick it. Then you get to take it home and consume it.

The RL Gang’s shoppable children’s book is not really any of those things. What I viewed was a pretty sophisticated video using the format of an illustrated picture book to sell a line of children’s back to school, fall clothes to adults. It is quite a clever piece of advertising. But it is just that: clever advertising. It is not a book, not even an electronic book.

See you at the Library,

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