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Children’s Stories in the Digital Age: Past, Present, and Future

Children’s stories today are not like they were when we were growing up, even to the youngest parents. Twenty years ago, there were still a few story books online to read, but those were nothing compared to the range and technology modern children enjoy. Back then it was special to read books online... today it’s common. 

But how did we get to this point, and where do we go next? In this article, we explore children’s stories in the digital age: past, present, and future. 

Past

The history of stories for kids is a long one — classic children’s stories can date anywhere from Judy Blume in the 1960s to ancient Greek mythology from thousands of years ago. It’s fascinating to see how children’s literature evolved from oral tradition to paperback books, which themes stuck around and which were left behind. You can read our complete guide in the Evolution of Children’s Stories, where we talk about everything from prehistoric folklore to Harry Potter, and all points in between. 

But for children’s stories in the digital age, that history began in 1971 with the very early Internet. The first ebook was actually a digital copy of the Declaration of Independence, reproduced by Michael Hart. It wasn’t until the dot-com boom of the 1990s that the ebook industry really took off, including the first kids books online. The web was even used selectively in schools for teaching kids reading comprehension. 

By the late 2000s, the Internet was changing. With YouTube growing rapidly and the first smartphones entering circulation, kids books online had to compete with videos and interactive apps. Under these constraints, children’s literature also evolved into what we see today. 

Present

Modern-day children’s stories take advantage of new technology to stay relevant. If only authors like Lewis Carroll or Dr. Seuss had access to personalized children’s books or interactive interfaces!

For starters, advances in manufacturing and digital imaging gave rise to personalized books, where companies like ours can add individual names and even manipulated photos directly into a printed book.

Aside from print, today there are thousands of kids books online, many available for free. Many of the older classics can be found either scanned or typed up online. 

Another new trend is interactive children’s stories. “Interactive” is a broad term — it could refer to the option to change the text size or font, or it could refer to actually changing the plot of the story, like a spiritual successor to the Choose Your Own Adventure series of the past. 

Either way, interaction is almost always an improvement, allowing children to fine-tune their reading experience just how they prefer. The more a child enjoys the reading experience, the more they’ll read; it’s as simple as that. 

Future

Despite the decline of print, children’s literature as a whole continues to thrive. Studies show that both print and digital books sales are healthy. 

And why not? As we explained in our article E-books or Print: What’s Best for Kids?, both have their advantages and disadvantages. For example, print books may be better for retention and reading experiences, but digital books are cheaper if your child reads a lot, not to mention they come with extra features. 

So while it’s tempting to say ebooks will dominate the future of children’s stories in the digital age, the actual statistics suggest otherwise. We’ll likely see print and digital books sharing the crown a little while longer… until the next big tech disruptor arrives. Maybe our children’s children will be reading hologram books or virtual reality stories!