Friday, February 4, 2011

Appraising Apps

J. A.'s previous post about apps got me to thinking about how to evaluate them. My first thought was that reviews are one method of separating the good apps from the garbage, a traditional way of bringing selectivity to the marketplace. In addition to professional journals, there are general audience websites that review apps for children - including Best Kids Apps. But will parents pay attention to reviews? Apps are an inexpensive and instant purchase. No more driving to the bookstore or the library. Is it just easier to purchase quickly and take a chance on quality?

Then wondering whether reviews will be heeded, led me to a more basic question: how do you judge an app?

Elizabeth Bird of New York Public Library, gives her answer in Planet App: Kids' book apps are everywhere. But are they any good in School Library Journal.

Do you agree with her eight criteria?


  1. My husband has an iPhone and an iPad, and our three-year-old loves them both. (He calls the iPhone, "Daddy's smallest phone," and the iPad, "Daddy's biggest phone.")

    There are a lot of crap apps out there. We have one that's supposed to teach the alphabet, along with a word. Like "A. A is for apple." Then you see a picture of an apple.

    Well, when you get to C, there's a picture of a rooster. You can guess what the accompanying dialogue is. There are other letters using similar euphemistic words, which makes me think it's intentional, and not just someone using an old children's book.

    But there are some truly delightful apps. We have a few books from Disney, which are very interactive, with animation and learning tools. My son loves the Dr. Seuss books on the iPad, and sometimes when we put him to bed and try to sit down with a book, he'd rather have the electronic version.

    There's definitely a market out there. The problem is that the reputable people are dragging their feet, trying to figure out how to do it, and how to make as much money as possible.

    The amateurs are already making a lot of money throwing out a substandard product.

    I kind of wish the big guys would get their act together. Because, really, for quality, I'm ready to hand over my cash.

    Great series of posts! I'm so glad to hear people talking more about this. :-)

  2. Brigid,

    Thanks for the thoughtful comment. Yes,I guess the big guys held back a little on this new market and at first were just re-issuing back list pb's in the new format without adding much to them.

    This is changing.

    Congratulations on your book deal!!!

  3. Thanks for the link to that article, Gale. I'm still a print gal, but I think I'm finally starting to understand what kid lit apps are all about. It's going to be interesting to see how the market develops.

  4. After reading what Elizabeth Bird has to say about apps, all I can think about is how important librarians are. And a huge concern is that as budgets get slashed just as books go more and more toward digital, the public could lose incredibly valuable expertise.

  5. J.L.
    Yes, it was a great article pointing out lots of things I hadn't thought about. The foreign language possibilities intrigue me.

    I so agree about librarians - of course my opinion isn't biased -:)

  6. Well I've gone to the dark side and love my bright shiny iPad but call me old fashioned - it won't ever replace the wonderful tactile experience of a book.

    I agree with Brigid -there are some definite crap apps out there. We have a few my daughter can appreciate, and yes I do feel somewhat better if she's reading a book than playing Angry Birds or Fruit Ninja. But it's more like a novelty for us.

    So much of the magic of reading happens in your own mind...even when there are pictures. Having bells and whistles is fun, for sure, but I wonder if it does dull a child's imagination after awhile? Or maybe it enhances it?

    I think apps are a great tool to use in conjuction with books, but I'm not sure they will ever really replace them.

  7. Thanks for sharing the link, Gale. I'm ignorant when it comes to apps. All I think of is Angry Birds and Fruit Ninjas which my husband has on his iPad. Guess he'll be a little surprised when he finds he's now got "Scruffy Kitty" and "Emma Loves Pink" on there too.

  8. Thanks for the congrats! :-)

    My other caveat with apps is that the iTunes store remembers your password for 15 minutes after you've bought something. So if you have a clever preschooler who knows how to go into the app store, it's easy (too easy!!) for them to download a new game before you're aware of it.

    We learned this the hard way when our son downloaded the $8.99 Sonic the Hedgehog because he thought it was a kitty game.

    I love the apps, but I agree with Robin, that they won't ever replace the books themselves. There's definitely something about using your imagination as a child.

  9. Gale - yes - thanks for sharing this link. What a thorough review of the app market - and how fascinating some of the better apps are - the excellently rated app of Peter Rabbit with the child touching a tab and hearing the grass rustle - or maybe Mr McGregor pounding after poor Peter in the cabbages! The good ones are very neat - and the bad - are - well, bad. Some type of sorting of the market will soon, I'm sure, take place in what the author calls the untamed wilderness.

  10. Well, we all seem to agree on one thing: apps are here to stay, but we hope books are, too!

    Robin, What do you use your iPad for the most?

    Meg, Haven't you ever been curious enough to download something on that iPad in your house? I would have.

    Brigid, Sneaky stuff at iTunes - they know how to sell extras!

    Eileen, Yes, I think sound effects are one of the plus points for apps - as long as they don't overwhelm the story.

  11. Hmm...what do I use it for most...I purchased it with the intention of...reading books, lol. I wanted a Kindle, but my hubby talked me into an iPad because I could do more with it. I've watched movies, checked e-mail,played Fruit Ninja (and kicked a**!) but I've only read a little bit. There's a word processing app, but I haven't dabbled in that, I'm a WORD gal for now. My daughter is writing a novel on the iPad PAGES app - My Bloody Vampire Hey, she's onto something, right :) I'm sure there's a lot more one can do with it, I just have to take the time to investigate!

  12. Robin, Someday I'll probably get one and I'm sure I'll spend hours fooling with all the options. You're good for not letting it suck time from your writing!