Category Archives: Picture Books

How to Get Free Books

FREE Books!If you’ve stopped by this blog before, you already know I like book apps. What I haven’t shared nearly as often is my love for ALL types of books, especially mysteries, YA and middle grade novels, business and other how-to volumes, and even the occasional chick lit book. Because the only thing better than a good book is a good FREE book, I have found myself visiting a few special online destinations to help me be one of the first to know when a book shows up free or at a steep discount.

Book Apps

For those of you looking for the best deals and free offers on apps, look no further than the Daily Deal Page at Digital Storytime. I don’t know how she does it, but Carisa Kluver (the muscle behind Digital Storytime) handpicks the best deals on storybook and other apps for kids twice a day! I LOVE it and check it at least every day or two.

Free App Alert doesn’t specialize in book apps, but stories will show up in their daily listing of apps that are temporarily offered FREE. I have found many cool apps this way, mostly game apps.

Amazon Kindle Books

While I don’t actually own a Kindle, the Kindle app on my iPad gets a lot of use. And with the help of the following three sites, my wallet doesn’t have to be adversely affected (much!).

Pixel Of InkMy favorite Kindle deal site is Pixel of Ink. This site provides brief write-ups on books that have recently come down in price or are being offered FREE in the Kindle store. They seem to mention books of high quality, helping me separate the good stuff from the dreck.
I admit I stop by the site a couple of times a day when I remember, but sometimes I need a bit of prodding. That’s where their Twitter feed, daily email newsletter and Facebook page come in handy.

Another resource I recommend is Kindle Nation Daily. Run by Steve Windwalker (cool name, eh?), this site has a searchable, continually-updated list of Kindle freebies, sorted with the most recent additions at the top by default. This is a complete list (with no curation), which is useful every once in a while when Pixel of Ink doesn’t mention something I think I might like.

eReaderIQ ListingOne I’ve discovered recently is eReaderIQ. They have a similar freebie listing to that found at Kindle Nation Daily, but they add a Recent Price Drops section that is generated by their readers and includes a wide range of prices. I like the icons that appear next to each title, showing you at-a-glance which books are lending and TTS enabled, etc.

Dead-Tree Books

While I am quickly making the transition away from printed media, I admit this effort is sometimes stymied by my cheapskate tendencies. I refuse to spend $9.99 or above for a Kindle book I can get cheaper as a paperback. I take special delight in circumventing the outdated and no-longer-relevant new book retail process and getting books secondhand.

The best way to do this is through PaperbackSwap.com. The idea behind the site is genius. Start by putting up for trade a pile of physical books you no longer want (paperbacks and hardbacks are welcomed, as are audiobooks). Agree to ship (at your expense) one of these books to another member who requests it. Doing this earns you a credit, which you can use to request a book of your choice from another member.

I have scored many hard-to-find and out-of-print books through PaperbackSwap, which I love. If there is a book you want that isn’t available, just add it to your wish list. It might take a while, but someone will eventually post it, and the system will offer it to the next person on the wait list for that book. I also really like the fact that the books I don’t want any more get shipped to someone who is happy to receive them.

Scored any free books lately? Got any other resources you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments.

Pink! Review at Fun Educational Apps

Fun Educational AppsThe folks at Fun Educational Apps have posted a review of my storybook app I Don’t Like Pink! Here’s some of what they said:

“we liked the bright and colourful illustrations and the light amount of animation…we really liked the topic and messages, where quite often kids think stereotypes applies to everyone.”

“We also liked the moral of the story where although Gabi is strong minded she is respectful…The book app offers a great opening to kids discussion,  a great lesson on how to be true to yourself and show a way to use creative problem solving.”

Read the entire review at Fun Educational Apps. Their site is great, by the way–it is chock-full of reviews, app giveaways and it’s all organized by category. Check it out!

Apps I Like: The Three Little Pigs from Nosy Crow

There seem to be tons of versions of The Three Little Pigs in the App Store. Actually, there are 63 versions in the iPad category alone. Is there something special–something magical–about this folk tale, that makes it worthy of interpretation over and over again?

As it turns out, the magic isn’t actually in the story–it’s in the presentation. At least when the folks at Nosy Crow do it!

Nosy Crow is a small, independent publisher in the UK that makes both printed books and apps for kids up to age 14. The Three Little Pigs is their first app–and it’s a stunner. The app has earned the coveted Kirkus Star, and for good reason. The story is exactly as you remember it, but the interactivity that’s been built into the app is what’s so special.

Kids can touch the characters to prompt them to speak, flip them, and help them run faster (useful when the wolf is chasing the pigs). There’s a bunny who (I think) hides on every page, which provides a puzzle element to the story. The Three Little Pigs is also one of the only storybook apps that takes advantage of the iPad’s movement sensors (accelerometer, gyroscope, and compass)–as you tilt the device, the figures and objects seem to pop up off the background, and you can (to some extent) see behind and around them. It’s amazing!

The voices are wonderful too (all in lovely British accents), as is the music. The animation is amusing and appropriate to the story. There are several extras built in, like the ability to zoom in and out, shake to make objects fall, and you can even help the wolf blow down the houses by blowing into the device’s microphone.

Everything about this app is top-notch, and I have to say: it makes other app versions of the Three Little Pigs irrelevant. Nosy Crow has set the bar very high for storybook apps, which is great for both developers (this will push all of us to create better apps) and of course for kids. Get this fantastic app for $7.99 in the Apple App Store.

Apps I Like: Spot the Dot by Ruckus Media

When I heard that David A. Carter had developed an app in conjunction with Ruckus Media, I thought: “This is a match made in heaven!” My kids and I are already big fans of Carter’s pop-up books (I even have a copy of his wonderful Elements of Pop-Up, a hands-on how-to book for aspiring paper engineers) AND other Ruckus apps, so you can imagine how eager I was to try out Spot the Dot. But did it measure up to my high expectations?

The app is not a storybook app–more like an activity book (in line with the other geometric shape pop-up books Carter has developed). There are ten ‘playspaces’ for the user to explore, all featuring a ‘find the colored dot’ activity. A clearly-articulated male voiceover guides folks through each playspace. Lively animation, a beautiful color palette and well-chosen sound effects and music add to the experience.

The presentation is such that people of all ages will find themselves amused while searching for the elusive colored dot. And the icing on the cake: when the app is restarted, the dots will show up in a different location, so the puzzle solutions can’t be memorized! I consider that feature to be a real gift–straight from the app creators to me, adding exponentially to the replay value and entertainment factor.

I don’t give out star ratings for my informal reviews, but if I did, Spot the Dot would get five stars out of five. I just love it! Get your own copy for $3.99 on iTunes (iPad only), or if you’d like to try it out for free before purchase, download the Lite version, which includes three of the ten playspaces for you to sample. What are you waiting for?

(Full disclosure: I received a copy of this app for review purposes.)

I Don’t Like Pink! Review at Digital Storytime!

Review of I Don't Like Pink! at Digital Storytime

I Don’t Like Pink! has received its first review–at Digital Storytime! Here’s some of what was said in the review:

“Features original music and delightful narration by the author herself…the illustrations are crisp and colorful…a short but sweet little book with a well-crafted story and nice educational content that is both relevant and engaging for youngsters.”

Go check out the whole review–and buy the app on iTunes for only two bucks! I thank you in advance.

Interview with Digital Storytime’s Carisa Kluver

the Digital Storytime site

a recent review at Digital Storytime

If you have an Apple mobile device and small kids, you probably a) look for well-made apps that are both educational and fun; and b) like to get good deals on those apps. Digital Storytime was created with both those needs in mind, and is turning into a must-bookmark site for busy parents like me. I was able to snag a few minutes of time with Carisa Kluver, Digital Storytime‘s creator/founder, who cheerfully agreed to answer my nosy questions!

Carisa Kluver, Digital Storytime's creator

Carisa Kluver, Digital Storytime's creator

1. As both an educator and a parent, you come at the concept of digital literacy from two valid perspectives. Tell us a little bit about your background. When did you realize that the iPad could be used as a digital bookshelf for your kids?

I spent the past 20 years working with children, youth and families in a variety of roles. I have a BA in Anthropology and an MSW, spending most of my career teaching health education to adolescents & training teachers, often for after-school programs to prevent teen pregnancy. I still do contract work occasionally, training teachers for a comprehensive sexuality education curricula series called Our Whole Lives. Before I left the workforce to have my little boy 5 years ago, I had settled into research work on teen pregnancy prevention and was even published in an academic journal. [That article took 6 years to see publication, so every time I push the ‘publish’ button on the blog, I think, “Now that’s instant gratification for a writer.”]

When my 40th birthday rolled around in April 2010, my plans to celebrate in Vegas seemed a bit beyond our budget, so I ‘splurged’ on a 16GB wifi iPad instead. Within a month I was downloading kids books. I was a little stunned at how revolutionary the change in my own reading routine was with my own child. I am a lover of print kids books and never liked digital books on computers. My nieces & nephews make jokes about how I only send them books for every gifting opportunity–so much so that they would be stunned to get anything else from me. I never thought I’d be willing to transition from print to digital–let alone so quickly.

2. Digital Storytime is quickly becoming the site of choice for parents who want information and reviews of storybook apps for the iPad. What made you want to create the site?

Long before the idea for our site, I loved finding good iPad kids books. But the shopping experience was dreadful. The kids books aren’t even separated out from the erotica in the app store. I also couldn’t afford my growing book app habit without serious bargain shopping. By October I had amassed over 100 book apps by watching sale promotions very closely. That’s when the idea to start my own site hit me. I was also talking to our local children’s librarian about the book apps and trying to describe them. She just looked confused and had never heard of these books. When I explained that they have no ISBN numbers, she was even more mystified.

At the same time, I was getting a crash course in marketing. I was trying to help out my husband’s Android kids game, Dash & Ditto’s Playground, and in the process I spent a lot of time on app review sites for both Android & iOS kids apps. I wanted a way to really search and sort through information and tried to find something like that for kids books for the iPad. Of course such a site simply didn’t exist. My husband needed a database project for a class he was taking in php, so I gave him a project … a big one. 😉

3. I love how each app is rated on six different metrics (Animation, Audio Quality, Interactivity, Re-Readability, Extras and Bedtime)–I find this very helpful when I evaluate apps for my own kids. Have other parents responded to the site? What sort of feedback have you been getting?

I have gotten wonderful feedback from almost everyone – from parents & educators to authors/illustrators and even developers themselves. Parents in particular have said the site is a ‘godsend’ even. It makes me blush a little. 🙂

We are also in the process of several big makeovers for the pages on our site. The response to the first page to change, the deal page, was great. We really appreciate the specific feedback … things like the different colors for free and paid apps on the buttons came from a reader suggestion.

We actually have two more categories I rate books on, Originality & Educational, that will debut with our site makeover later this month (May).

4. The Daily Deal page is a fantastic, time-saving resource for those of us who have limited funds (and who doesn’t?). Educational and book apps show up there whenever the price drops below their regular retail price (including FREE)! How did you get the idea for this great feature?

My friends know me for being notoriously frugal. My deal-finding abilities in the non-digital world are legendary. In order to start the review site I needed lots of good books to choose from to fill the site quickly with reviews. I didn’t get promo codes for books at first, so I was industrious about finding free deals and watching for price drops on chart topping books. I even started following lots of developers on twitter to hear about deals more quickly. Once I started getting promo codes, I decided to turn this bargain hunting into the deal page to share my finds. At first, I just figured a couple good friends would download stuff … but it turns out the things I wanted in a site were things lots of parents & educators wanted too.

5. There is some controversy about the use of screens for reading with children instead of traditional printed books. As an educator and a parent, what are your thoughts on moving storytime into the digital age?

This is a complicated issue. I do have concerns about screen time. That’s why I added the blog, The Digital Media Diet. Everything is about balance, mindfulness and being present as a parent (both literally and figuratively). I also think all screens (and content) are not created equally. I use my child’s behavior as feedback … if he is zombie-like and whiny after getting to play with an app, I can tell it is the kind of screen time that needs to be a treat, not the digital meal.

I expect there will be some growing pains as our society adjusts to digital kids books. I don’t get the controversy though. I guess I just don’t think we can do anything to stop this trend. The transition seems to be happening faster than anyone expected, though. The costs of printing (in financial and environmental terms) are simply too great in comparison to the ease of digital publishing and downloading. And that’s even without the extra features that make picture books come alive. Once you’ve walked through this particular door, you can’t go back. (IMHO)

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A big thanks to Carisa for helping me out with the blog today! If you’ve never visited Digital Storytime, the Daily Deal page or the Digital Media Diet blog, head on over there and check it out! You can Like them on Facebook too.

I Don’t Like Pink! is LIVE!

I Don't Like Pink is LIVE!

LIVE Now in the App Store: I Don't Like Pink!

I am pleased to announce that my first storybook app I Don’t Like Pink! is now LIVE in the Apple App Store! I am so proud to have teamed up with PicPocket Books, one of my very favorite app publishers even before I decided to develop the story as an app.

The story features a spunky young lady named Gabi who isn’t shy about expressing her displeasure with a gift she receives from her grandmother. A visit from a friend right after the present is opened provides an unexpected resolution to the problem, and a fresh take on the meaning of gift appreciation.

I Don’t Like Pink! is a full-color, interactive storybook app that features original music, subtle animation that follows the story, and a professionally recorded voiceover by yours truly! The app is optimized for iPad (iPhone version coming soon) and priced at $1.99.

I hope you won’t mind if I ask you to please Get It! and please let me know how you like the story! WHOO-HOO! Can you tell I’m excited?!