Infographic: Teens' love affair with "real books"

Teens and paper: Star-crossed lovers of the digital age?

As a professional in the publishing industry - author, publisher, and school library consultant - I've been surprised by one fact of life among young readers: Kids don't care about e-books. 

According to a late 2013 poll, 62% of young readers still prefer paper books. Keep in mind two things: 1) This poll was with older teen and early-twenties readers, leaving out younger readers who are much less likely to read e-books; and 2) This was an online poll, netting young readers who are more likely to engage electronic reading content.

According to a late 2013 poll, 62% of young readers still prefer paper books. Keep in mind two things: 1) This poll was with older teen and early-twenties readers, leaving out younger readers who are much less likely to read e-books; and 2) This was an online poll, netting young readers who are more likely to engage electronic reading content.

How can this be?! Kids gobble up electronic media like it's going out of style (though we know it's here to stay - and grow). Figuring they had to compete spear-point-to-spear-point with streaming video, social media, circulating selfies, and online gaming many school librarians invested heavily early on. Spending thousands of dollars on e-books - some informational, but mostly popular titles - librarians did the download, presented the options to their students, and sat back. "If you download it, they will come," was the sentiment (and the sales pitch they got from vendors).

But, guess what - the kids did not dive head-first into e-book offerings. Some librarians have told me that they have to do regular refresher presentations on their e-book collection only to see a small and temporary spike in e-book usage. Then their kids go back to the printed page. Others have given up on the e-book option altogether and chosen instead to partner with their public libraries to deliver e-books only to the kids who really want them. So far, it legitimately seems like a waste of budget to add ebooks to their school collections.

My professional experience:

Teens at the Indianapolis Comic Con checking out paperbacks of The Delphi Trilogy and Seti's Charm.

Teens at the Indianapolis Comic Con checking out paperbacks of The Delphi Trilogy and Seti's Charm.

My own experience as an author and publisher bears out this non-trend. When we published my YA thriller The League of Delphi: Book I of The Delphi Trilogy in 2012, we intended to capitalize on the e-book tsunami that was flooding the book world. e-Book adoption and sales numbers were mouth-watering. At that time we decided to go ahead and publish a paperback book only as a "marketing piece" for the e-book, thinking that to have it in paper form would somehow underpin the e-book's legitimacy, but expecting sparse paperback sales. What did we find? To date, we have sold WAY MORE paperbacks than e-books to teens and adults alike. 

At conferences and libraries, I watch young readers pick up the books, read the backs, read a little of the insides, and stroke the cover with the palms of their hands. A book is somehow important to a young reader. 

I have one anecdote and one theory about why this may be. 

My anecdote: 

I was meeting with a high school librarian who had spent over $3000 on ebooks only to see them sit and gather electronic dust. We were wondering aloud about this situation when I spotted her student library aid behind the desk, thumbing on his smart phone. A notion struck me. "Josh," I asked, "would you download an e-book to your phone?"

"No," he sneered, "I need that space for videos and games and stuff." 

(In case you're wondering, e-book usage numbers are not staggeringly higher for schools that give each kid an electronic device.)

If it's on a shelf somewhere, why would a teen fill up their device with it? 

If it's on a shelf somewhere, why would a teen fill up their device with it? 

Kids see the space on their devices as limited and precious. Books exist somewhere that their other favorite media don't. If you can pick up a book from the shelf and read it then put it back without taking up bytes on your phone or tablet, why push out your favorite video?

But how to explain the astonishing rise in e-book sales and usage? This looks like the future of publishing and reading, spurring hand-to-hand combat between e-book behemoth Amazon.com and the so-called "legacy publishers" (you know the big names) over pricing, technology, delivery, licensing, etc. While the curve is not as steep as it was maybe two years ago, it's still a growing market with new e-book readers entering the market every day. But the vast majority of these e-book adopters and readers are adults. Which leads to ...

My theory: 

Young readers are having a different reading experience than adults. The word "experience" is key here. A book is, in a sense, a magical object. Young readers are indulging in - and maybe still learning to handle - the full experience of stepping into the world on the page. The physical book is a bridge into that world. There's still something very special about owning and holding a book. 

Books are powerful and magical objects. 

Books are powerful and magical objects

Adults, on the other hand, are consuming books and stories. I liken it to eating popcorn - one toss after another, a stream of consumption. Long-running series fiction is huge among adults - and the books are at least twice as long as young readers' fiction. You can't carry all those books with you. Romance and erotica are big in e-books. You don't want to carry all those books around with you. On the road, on the plane, on-the-go, anywhere/anytime access to the distraction of long-form content and story is a must for busy adults. e-Books solve a number of problems for the way adults read and consume books. 

I love that young readers still love paper books. Even though I was a reluctant reader as a kid, I've always put a lot of value on books (especially ones with pictures). A set of encyclopedias my parents bought for my older siblings when I was a baby came with a lot of bonuses, like a series of what I call "Little Scientist" books. Because there were a lot of rambunctious kids in our house, stuff naturally got scattered to the winds. I would find these little, hand-sized books - each filled with pictures, descriptions, and facts about birds, rocks, stars, trees - around the house and "rescue" them. I lined them up proudly on my dresser and considered them "MY BOOKS". 

In some cases, struggling readers respond to e-books like no other format. But more and more it seems clear that it's not the format the engages a reader - whether they're voracious or reluctant/struggling - but the content that seems most important. Attention and mentoring are huge, too (see my READER tips for helping your reluctant reader). Maybe the content of some newer-media books is especially attractive, so it seems like the medium is the answer, skewing some studies. Just a thought.

Overall, for young readers it seems that CONTENT IS KING and PAPER IS STILL THE KING'S MESSENGER. 

Let's hear from you, Rabble. Do your young readers prefer e-books or good, old-fashioned paper? 

Reading Rabble Review: Children of the After Book 4 "Rebirth" By Jeremy Laszlo

4 Rabbles for a great finish to a gripping YA series!

Having located the City of Angels, Jack, Samantha, Will and Tammy plan to destroy the alien creation. Seeking revenge for all the damage done to their worlds, and all the lives lost to the invaders, the companions seek out those responsible. Fighting their way to the enemy, they discover the reason for the invasion, and the truth about both their past and their future. When face to face with the beings responsible for the apocalypse, can the children of the after prevail?

Reaching the end of this amazing and thrilling YA series, I'm both happy and sad. Happy because the 4th and final book in this series is truly enjoyable and a great finish. Sad because, of course, it's the end! I've become attached to these three heroes and their incredible journey and I'm left wanting more. That is the mark of a great book - how well you identify with the main character(s), and how much you will miss them.

This final installment had it all - fantasy, drama (in small amounts), and tons of exciting action! Using their newfound powers, our sibling heroes Jack, Samantha, and Will, along with their new friend Tammy, have made it to the final showdown with the alien masters. The alien city is a nearly impregnable fortress of danger and confusion. Using their powers to gain entry, they must now both defeat the enemy and rescue their people being held hostage. 

The action sequences in this book were outstanding! Since this is at its core a Sci-Fi adventure story, a certain amount of fantastical elements are present, but never at any point did I have the notion that any of this was out of the realm of possibility. That is the mark of a great Sci-Fi story - fantastic without the idea of impossibility ever coming into play. The characters use their powers in a most human fashion and with the awkwardness that both matches their young ages and lends belief to the story.

For those of you who haven't read this series, I will not be revealing any more of the plot. There cannot be any higher recommendation than that. I liked this series so much that I want everybody to read it. Therefore no spoilers will be found henceforth.

Reluctant Readers will truly enjoy this series! The characters are very easy to identify with and like. The vocabulary is easy to read and you will not get bogged down with any part of this story from beginning to end. As I have stated in previous reviews of this wonderful series, I wish there was a way to give more than one R for reluctant readers. I feel quite strongly that of all the books the Rouser has reviewed that this series will grab and hold even the most reluctant of readers.

4 Rabbles with an R is an easy rating to give this 4th and final book in the "Children of the After" series. However, seeing as how all 4 books received an enthusiastic 4 Rabbles, and finding myself feeling so strongly about how much Reluctant Readers will enjoy this whole series, I am going to do something we haven't done before here in the Reading Rabble Review. This series as a whole is going to receive a second rating.

A definite 5 Rabbles with an R is what I give the "Children of the After" Books for overall excellence and enjoyability. 

Rabble back! Have you been bowled over by any series you've read? Any of them get a bigger rating from you as a series than the individual books got?

How to Make Friends With a Robot

Crank the Kidbot has been out and about quite a bit lately, meeting bio-kids and bio-adults alike. He's a sociable robot and loves making friends everywhere he goes. In the future where Crank and his best bio friend Hub live and have their adventures people and robots live, work, and play side-by-side. In fact, by the time these two meet in sixth grade, bots and bios have been friends for centuries. 

In today's world, though, there are a few things you'll want to know about robots that will help you make friends when one does come along. Crank has volunteered to show some of his features. 

Check out the photos of bios who have met Crank and joined the BOTOLOGY CLUB

And Rabble back if you know any robots. We'd love to hear your experience.

"Multiplayer" by John C. Brewer

5 fist-pumping, enthusiastic Rabbles for an inventive YA thriller!

Is dying the worst thing that can happen to you? Hector West thinks so, especially after the death of his father in Iraq. So, Hector escapes into the online world of Omega Wars where he knows the worst that can happen to his ‘character’ is an inconvenient respawn. After all, real is real and virtual isn’t. Yet Hector’s real and virtual worlds are heading for a deadly collision as the war that took his father crashes headlong into his quiet suburban life. And getting killed, Hector is about to find out, isn’t the worst thing that can happen to you. It isn’t even close.

The seed for Multiplayer sprouted in author John C. Brewer's head from encountering gamers from around the world while Brewer and his three sons played HALO on XBox-Live. As a physicist and rocket scientist, he was also aware of the technical difficulties government authorities would have monitoring for voice evidence of criminal activity in a mixed data stream, and the idea for the book was suddenly obvious. The military family setting, and the trials that it brings, was a natural backdrop for him, having grown up in a family with a long military history. While Multiplayer's joys, tragedies and real life challenges appeal to a wide range of readers, Brewer hopes the novel's context will also draw in those game-playing teens who have given up on books as a source of entertainment.

WOW! What a great book! This first installment of the Multiplayer Saga - an inventive YA thriller that masterfully blends the realm of online gaming with real life - kept me on the edge of my seat for almost a week. I enjoyed this book tremendously! It is a great addition to our Rabble Review. Recommended by a friend, this book was a great pleasure to read and review.

First and foremost, the characters were very believable and likable. There was not one point anywhere in this book where overwhelming drama overshadowed the action! In fact the action never let up from the beginning to the end. Essential characters and action were replete throughout the book. I was always in sympathy with the young protagonist, Hector West. Given what he had been through in his family it was easy to identify with his character. It usually takes most of a book for me to come into agreement with a character's foibles, but I found myself sympathetic with Hector almost from the start!

Featuring a truly modern setting, up to date terms and themes, and a plot relevant to the daily lives of today's youth, this book explores many of the issues we have all been dealing with these last few decades. The moral questions of religion and ideology were present in this fast moving book without being overbearing. The presentation of Hector's struggles with hatred and forgiveness reveal qualities that showed that the author has dwelt with these questions himself.

The Reading Rabble will be aware that I do not give out 5-Rabble reviews lightly. But I am thrilled to give "Multiplayer" the best of ratings! John C. Brewer himself has pronounced his book to be one which unwilling readers will want to read. I find myself in complete agreement. The modern subject, and ease of vocabulary promises to hypnotize a young reader enough to put down the control pad and pick up this book.

We're looking forward to much more from this author and from this series! 5 Huge Rabbles for "Multiplayer" !

Time for the Rabble to give back! Got any books that will compete and win against electronic media? 

Reading Rabble Review: Children of the After Book 3 "Evolution"

4 Big Rabbles for continuing excellence in this YA series!

Having stolen the pickup, Ole Bessy, from the Resistance, Jack, Samantha, and Will find themselves on the run once again. Pursued by those who had once kept them as captives, they are forced to flee into the unknown. 
Now that Tammy’s secret has been exposed, she reveals to her friends a prophecy of her people, further complicating the web of fate the siblings find themselves in. 
Finding both new allies and new foes, revealed secrets will lead them all to ‘The City of Angels’ to face the ultimate threat by the invaders themselves.

Once again we find our heroes on the run. This time they are running from the human resistance instead of to it. Since finding the Resistance - including their new friend Tammy - to be a ruled by tyrannical madman bent on destruction our heroes decided they have little choice. The resistance, however, has other idea's and is in pursuit. This action sequence is thrilling. Their escape brings more danger than any of them expected.

SPOILER ALERT !

By now, Tammy has been revealed as an alien but that does not seem to bother our hero siblings. After all, Tammy has saved their lives more than once and has shown herself to be a true friend no matter what her origins. This acceptance has important aspects for the rest of the story as they will find themselves needing friendships from all beings to continue their journey.

Having made their escape Jack, Samantha, and Will begin to discover that they truly are special. Taking refuge with a group of Tammy's 'people' in hiding they will find out more about themselves than they ever thought possible.

In the interest of not spoiling too much of the story I hesitate to reveal much more of the plot. Suffice to say that our siblings discover latent powers that bring a new dimension of excitement to their journey. 

Once again, I am thrilled with the "Children of the After" series. It has all the elements of a great sci-fi action novel, but is put together in a way that can engage anyone. Of all the books the Rouser has reviewed so far, this series continues to be one with the highest marks for Reluctant Readers. None of the vocabulary is difficult to read and the characters are very likable. This third installment brought  some great concepts into the story. The action sequences are thrilling and the drama is both believable and limited. Author Jeremy Laszlo has created a great YA story that will keep you turning those pages. I am very excited to get to the next (and final) book in this series. I am sure it will be as great as the others. 

4 Rabbles with an R for Reluctant Readers is easy to give this third book in the "Children of the After" series. If I could give two R's for this series I would to encourage Reluctant Readers to give this one a try!

Let's get responding Rabble! Do series you start reading always deliver on the promise and stay interesting? Rabble Back!