Search and advertising giant Google and Ohio Art, maker of the children’s classic drawing toy announced a joint venture today to produce the first e-book reader for pre-schoolers. Named the Etch a Book, the new reader will capitalize on the highly refined Etch a Sketch two knob interface which is already familiar to millions of parents and children all over the globe.
In making the announcement, Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, revealed that Google has been scanning children’s literature of all kinds for several years now, accumulating a library of more than 2,000,000 children’s titles, many of which have been out of print for decades.
One of the big challenges in developing the Etch a Book has been the fact that young children don’t yet read. “The answer we found was to read the books to the children,” says Brin. The Etch will offer several voices, including those described as ‘friendly mom’ and ‘funny dad.’
Since the Etch a Book screen is closely derived from the classic Etch a Sketch, the reader will not be able to display text or pictures. “This was a big challenge for the books that are all illustration and no text,” says Larry Killgallon, CEO of Ohio Art. “We wanted to keep the child involved and the screen interactive, as with all our products.” The answer is to have the friendly mom reader or the funny dad reader describe the art that Google has scanned. For Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel — “There’s a big steam tractor digging a hole,” says the voice. In presenting what had been a cloth book, The Big Farm, in the demonstration we saw, the ‘friendly mom’ is heard to say, “And here’s a big white sheep.”
To complete the reading experience for the very young, the Etch a Book comes with an available Bouncy Lap, which vibrates the child up and down gently while the child is being read to by the Etch a Book. Also available is a ventilator, which simulates the soft breath of a reading parent on the child’s cheek. Available Christmas.