Availablity of e-Books for Children and Young Adults

September 6, 2009 Musings 1

Apropos of my earlier posting about Cushing Academy’s bookless library and the dubious availability of children’s and YA books in e-book format, I decided to do some further checking. I chose to check Amazon’s Kindle store rather than the Sony e-book store, because there are more titles available overall for Kindle and because Kindle appears to be winning more market share at this point. (My personal preference is for Sony; I don’t need a keyboard or wireless access, just a book.)

I started by searching the Kindle store for well-known children’s and YA authors. None of the following classic or award-winning authors’ works is available for Kindle at all: Avi, L. M. Boston, Edward Eager, Elizabeth Enright, Eleanor Estes, Esther Forbes, Jean Craighead George, Marguerite Henry, S. E. Hinton, E. L. Konigsburg, Robert Lawson, Lois Lenski, Julian Lester, Astrid Lindgren, Eloise McGraw, Noel Streatfeild, Rosemary Sutcliff, and E. B. White.

Only the first of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House” series is available for Kindle, and none of Arthur Ransome’s “Swallows and Amazons” books. Milne’s “Winnie the Pooh” books are not available either. Most of Joan Aiken’s “Wolves of Willoughby Chase” series are absent, as are all of Mary Norton’s Borrowers books. Only two of Susan Cooper’s five “Dark Is Rising” series are in Kindle editions. I couldn’t find Rawls’ “Where the Red Fern Grows,” Juster’s “The Phantom Tollbooth,” Dahl’s “James and the Giant Peach,” or Selden’s “A Cricket in Times Square.”

A few of Scott O’Dell’s more recent books are available for Kindle, but not the Newbery Award-winning”Island of the Blue Dolphins” or the Newbery Honor books “The Black Pearl” and “Sing Down the Moon,” even though each is often assigned for class reading. Other Newbery Award winners are also conspicuously missing from the Kindle store, including (in reverse order) the winners for 2006, 2003, 1997-99, 1991-93, 1984-89, 1982, 1979-80, 1977, 1972-4, 1965-70, 1960-62, and almost everything before 1958.

Only four of Richard Peck’s and three of Cynthia Rylant’s extensive title lists are on Kindle. Only three of Patricia MacLachlan’s books are available, and they don’t include her “Sarah, Plain and Tall” series. Only four of Robin McKinley’s recent books are there; her earlier Newberry winners and honor books (“Beauty,” “The Blue Sword,” “The Hero and the Crown”) are not. Also absent from the Kindle store are Ursula Leguin’s Earthsea books, Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain and Westmark series, Philip Pullman’s Victorian mysteries, most of Judy Blume’s books, Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s early works, most of Isaac Bashevis Singer’s works, Ian Fleming’s “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” Atwater’s “Mr. Popper’s Penguins,” Munoz Ryan’s “Esperanza Rising,” and Orson Scott Card’s “Ender’s Game.” While a number of Anne McCaffrey’s adult SF/fantasy books are available, her wonderful YA Harper Hall trilogy (“Dragonsong,” “Dragonsinger,” and “Dragondrums”) is not.

Of more recent popular and/or acclaimed children’s and YA authors, I failed to find any Kindle editions at all for authors Cornelia Funke, Shannon Hale, Katherine Lasky, or Gail Carsen Levine. None of Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson’s Peter Pan books are available for Kindle. Only five of Margaret Peterson Haddix’s many books are available, and only the first of Eoin Colfer’s popular Artemis Fowl series, which now numbers at least seven. Of course, J. K. Rowling has made no secret of her refusal to allow electronic publication of the Harry Potter novels.

To be fair, many children’s and YA books are available as e-books. Many books in the public domain (which is anything written before 1923) can probably be found on the Project Gutenberg website. Most of the popular classics in public domain are also available in both Kindle and Sony formats, including works by authors Louisa May Alcott, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Lewis Carroll, Arthur Conan Doyle, G. A. Henty, Jack London, L. M. Montgomery, Edgar Allan Poe, Robert Louis Stevenson, Johanna Spyri, Mark Twain, Jules Verne, and H. G. Wells. Wyss’s “The Swiss Family Robinson,” Sewell’s “Black Beauty,” Eleanor Porter’s Pollyanna books, and Margaret Sidney’s “Five Little Peppers” series are all available in e-book formats. L. Frank Baum’s Oz books are available for both Sony and Kindle, though personally I would miss the original illustrations. One of the really nice things about e-books is that classics such as these cost little to nothing; you can get a complete set of Sherlock Holmes novels for 99 cents at the Kindle store. (Caveat emptor, however: the formatting and editing quality of public-domain works may vary.)

There are also a number of more recent classics and award-winning fiction books in Kindle editions, including at least some of the works by Beverly Cleary, Sharon Creech, Christopher Paul Curtis, Kate DiCamillo, Carl Hiaasen, Lois Lowry, Katherine Paterson, Gary Paulsen, and Cynthia Voigt. Popular teen chic-lit authors whose works are widely available for Kindle include Meg Cabot and Sarah Dessen, and more traditional children’s authors like Jeanne Birdsall (“The Penderwicks”) are also represented.

In the children’s/YA fantasy and science fiction genre, C. S. Lewis’s Narnia series is available for Kindle, as are Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy, Garth Nix’s Abhorsen trilogy, many of Erin Hunter’s works, and most of Neil Gaiman’s. Some of Brian Jacques’ more recent works are available (but sadly, not “Redwall” and it’s early sequels.) Most of Tamora Pierce’s earlier works are not available as e-books, but her marvelous “Protector of the Small” series is in both the Kindle store and the Sony store, and it looks as if forthcoming books will also be published in electronic format.

In short, an all-electronic school library would not be devoid of good things for students to read… merely somewhat impoverished, in comparison to a good print library. (I haven’t gone into the “borrowability” question regarding e-books; that’s a whole ‘nother kettle of fish, and up to the library to solve.)

One Response to “Availablity of e-Books for Children and Young Adults”

  1. delphipsmith

    Perhaps their target audience isn’t children. Kids of the age to be reading Newbery books for the first time don’t have their own credit card therefore are not little pots of money to be exploited. I’m guessing their target audience is twenty- and thirty-somethings. (Did this comment already go through? I tried it and nothing happened…so maybe I’m now here twice!)