If you ask me, the iPad's prowess as an e-book reader lies not in pulp fiction, but in kids' books. Think about it: the latest Grisham novel is just raw text, which any old Kindle can deliver. But children's books are all about big, splashy pictures and wild colors--elements perfectly suited to iPad screens.
And needless to say, the iPad can do a lot more than just display static pages. It can read stories aloud; it can enrich a classic tale with touch-powered extras; and it can even render pages in 3D. Let's take a look at five dazzling e-books for kids, starting with an eye-popping rendition of "Alice in Wonderland."
1."Alice for the iPad" This lavishly illustrated 52-page abridgment of the classic tale incorporates animation like no other e-book to date. Readers can tilt the iPad to make Alice grow and shrink; shake it to watch the Mad Hatter's bobblehead bobble; and so on. The frantically paced demo video (above) is a little over-the-top, but there's no question this is a showpiece iPad app. Thankfully, there's a free Lite version you can try before splurging on the $8.99 full version.
2. Dr. Seuss books Already among my favorites (uh, I mean, my kids' favorites) on the iPhone, Oceanhouse Media's three Seuss titles--"Dr. Seuss' ABC," "The Cat in the Hat," and "How the Grinch Stole Christmas"--are just that much bigger and better on the iPad. Each interactive story sells for $2.99--quite a bit less than their respective hardcovers (as it should be). Oh, and stay tuned: one of my all-time favorite Seuss titles, "The Lorax," will make its iPad/iPhone debut in about a week.
3. "Jack and the Beanstalk Children's Interactive Storybook" I think the title says it all, no? The "interactive" part comes in the form of games, activities, hidden Easter eggs, and the like. Gorgeous artwork, read-along text, and a reasonable price tag of $3.99. What's not to like?
4. "Toy Story Read-Along" The model for how children's e-books should be done, Disney's highly interactive app leverages the iPad's potential like few others. Not only does it read the story out loud, it also allows your child to record his or her voice and become the narrator. Each animated page features tap-to-play sound effects and character voices, and some can morph into coloring pages, complete with simple onscreen coloring tools. Songs, movie clips, and mini games round out the experience. Amazingly, the app is free (meaning it's a must-have), though "Toy Story 2 Read-Along" (and, presumably, future Disney titles) will run you $8.99.
5. "The Wrong Side of the Bed in 3D" This is interesting. Children's book author-illustrator Wallace E. Keller founded See Here Studios, turned his own out-of-print title into an e-book, and gave it a 3D makeover. (Narration and musical accompaniment, too.) Any traditional red/cyan 3D glasses will do (you can order a pair from the publisher for $1), though don't expect "Avatar"-level imagery: the effect is fairly minimal. Do expect a cute little story (which can also be viewed in 2D) accompanied by lovely illustrations. The HD version of the app costs $2.99; iPhone and iPod owners can snag it for 99 cents.
What do you think of the iPad as a children's e-book reader? Have you found any other titles worth mentioning? Share your thoughts in the comments. (And don't miss the incredible Marvel Comics app, which proves that comics are equally well-suited to the iPad's generous display.)