What is an ebook? What is a Book App? And Why Should We Care? An Analysis of Contemporary Digital Picture Books


Book apps have developed into a new format for the picture book. Given the crucial role that picture books have played in early childhood education, it seems pertinent to ascertain the ways in which they have been affected by digitisation. In response to concerns regarding a lack of models and design principles within children’s digital publications, this transdisciplinary study attempts to go some way towards addressing the need for more research in this area. The article draws on research into children’s literature and human–computer interaction, analysing a range of digital picture books and arguing that people read ebooks, whereas they use book apps, the latter being far more media-rich and interactive. The article also uncovers ways in which designers can use media-rich interactive features to further children’s engagement with their literature.

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    One such upgrade was EPUB3.

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    Interaction design is a discipline within the field of human–computer interaction. Jonas Löwgren states that interaction designers practise a “designerly approach” to shaping digital artefacts, by which he means an approach that goes “beyond pure utility and efficiency to consider also aesthetic qualities of use” (2013, n.p.).


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Correspondence to Betty Sargeant.

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Betty Sargeant

Betty Sargeant lectures in Media Studies at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia. She is currently being funded by the Australian Government and RMIT University for a PhD on the design of children’s book apps. Trained in both visual art and creative writing, Betty also writes and illustrates picture books and designs book apps, including How Far is Up? which was a finalist in the Premier’s Design Awards (2014).

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Sargeant, B. What is an ebook? What is a Book App? And Why Should We Care? An Analysis of Contemporary Digital Picture Books. Child Lit Educ 46, 454–466 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10583-015-9243-5

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  • Picture books
  • Book apps
  • ebooks
  • Children’s literature
  • Digital books
  • Interaction design
  • Interactivity
  • Interactive narratives