In Sharjah, Are Children and Youth Demanding More ‘Digital Books’?

Such was a headline in today’s Khaleej Times (Children, youth demand more digital books), and I wondered if there’d been a run on الدجاجة بَاقْ بِيق before I remembered Dareen Charafeddine at Kalimat had said that it wasn’t yet in the i-book store.

So what were these “digital books” attracting attention at the 29th Sharjah International Book Fair?

The article quotes Mohammed Saleh, the Egyptian manager of Media Protech for Programming, as saying that the company has books “in CDs and DVDs” and: “We are also producing basic and best seller children’s books in 10 CDs.”

He didn’t mention how these books are formatted, or what the titles might be.

Saleh also made the interesting statement that “Only the elderly read books published in papers these days.”

I am not sure what it means to have a “book” on a DVD, but Bassem Alshaar of Digital Future explains:

…the most saleable digital books are on children and on education, the latter includes “how-to-do-it-yourself” items. For example, we have ‘Discover The Human Body’, which teaches children to put together parts of  a human body of various colours and shapes.

This sounds a lot like…educational computer games to me. And not much like books.

Skepticism aside, I am trying hard to embrace books and book-like things in their myriad formats. In today’s Washington Post, Valerie Strauss, director of the U.S. organization “Raising a Reader” wrote: Must we have the digital vs. print battle?

She argues—unlike Saleh—that digital books don’t supplant paper books, but merely add another category of reading material. She wraps up her opinion piece:

If children only have access to digital books, they will lose out. If children only have access to print books, they will lose out. And most importantly, if parents do not spend time bonding with their children through both, they will lose out. We should not have to choose.

I’m not really sure if children “lose out” by only having access to paper books, but I nonetheless am doing my best to embrace new literacy technologies (such as the CD that accompanies بيت للأرنب الصغير as well as digital books).

Would I have been a lesser person if I’d never learned how to use a personal computer, arguably the technology shift of my generation? No, I don’t think so. But I would’ve missed out on a number of opportunities, such as writing this blog.

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