Computer Central: Dr. Seuss e-books deserve many looks

Published: Friday, April 1 2011 11:41 p.m. MDT

Unless you've been living under a rock, you know about the revolution in book publishing brought on by e-readers and the tablet computer.

There really is no great way to explain the experience of enjoying a book (or thousands of them) via a small handheld device. Though purists scoff (and I did, too, for a while), the ability to carry a few thousand of my favorite books everywhere I go is quite the experience.

What also is changing, forever, is the experience of reading to our kids.

Yes, I will forever remember curling up with my children to read them "Goodnight, Moon," and I hope they remember it, too. But now educators have worked with programmers and publishers to create an amazing experience for children using digital tablets such as the iPad.

Curling up in bed with your child and an iPad may sound a little strange, but that's before you've downloaded Oceanhouse Media's "Green Eggs and Ham" or any of a dozen other Dr. Seuss titles the company offers through Apple's App Store.

The books bring these stories to life. Book purists will note that a good reader and storyteller is supposed to do that for a child, and I could not agree more. But millions of children have learning issues, and new technology could help them with reading. And sometimes, when parents are unavailable, unattended reading is the only choice. So e-books are additional arrows in a parent's quiver. And with a $2.99 list price, they're much cheaper than hardcover books.

Once you launch the story, you have options of "Read to Me," "Read It Myself" and "Autoplay." In the first mode, words zoom up and highlight as they are read, associating the word's sound and spelling, doing a great job of showing where the words fit in the story.

In "Read It Myself" mode, everything on the page is interactive, so the child can explore the vivid artwork or the words themselves while the parent or child is reading.

"Autoplay" mode reads the book aloud and the story comes to life without any assistance, which is great in many circumstances.

I could not be more impressed with "Green Eggs and Ham" — or "The Cat in the Hat" or any other title in the series. Teachers and autism specialists across the globe already are using these e-books; when kids get a little iPad time, parents should be offering these instead of games.

Smaller versions also are available for the iPhone. Prices vary by title and promotions, but even at full price, I recommend them highly.

James Derk owns CyberDads, a computer services firm in Evansville, Ind. Contact him at jim@cyberdads.com

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