Every year around this time, I’m faced with the same problem: Dozens of high school students are flocking to my library in search of their required reading for AP English classes, and even though I’m lucky enough to have two sets of shelves in my teen space set aside for these books, there never seem to be enough copies. When print copies run out, I can always direct the teens to electronic collections, but what happens when those copies are also checked out?
Last month, an article presented a potential solution when it introduced me to an app called Serial Reader. I interested in the claim that Serial Reader would let me “conquer the classics in ten minutes a day.” To get started, I downloaded the free version of the app to my iPad to try. I was then prompted to subscribe to a book from their extensive list of classic and public domain titles and set a daily delivery time. I chose Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, and for the next ten days, Serial Reader sent me a section of the book that I could read in an average of ten minutes (some sections took a bit longer, but none were longer than fifteen minutes). The app synced my progress across my devices, so I could start a section during a break at work on my smartphone and finish it later on my tablet at home. By the end of ten days, I had read all of Common Sense.
Neko Atsume is a “cat collecting” IOS and Android game that has, quite literally, taken over the world. I defy you to find a child, a teen, a millennial, or an adult that has NOT played or at the very least heard of this phenomenon. You can find these cuddly kitties everywhere! They have their own cafes, their own toys, their own specials places in our hearts. I know I can’t go a day without taking care of mine. And I’m still working on collecting a few of those pesky rare ones!
If Neko Atsume has taken over not only the game and merchandise market, then why not books? I have compiled a list of some of the rare and more special (no offense to you other kitties!) Neko Atsume cats and found a book purr-fect for them.
We all have our favorite social media apps. According to the 2015 Pew Center report on teens and technology, 72% of all teens spend time with friends on social media. Of these teens, 23% do it daily. Texting is still the top activity for teens, but messaging apps are also popular with 42% of teens using apps such as Kik and WhatsApp and 14% use these types of app every day.
Since Teen Tech Week will be celebrated March 6-12, I asked some of the youth services librarians in my area what apps the teens in their libraries are currently obsessed with. I know their tastes change pretty quickly so what’s popular now may not be popular in six months. Therefore, I was a bit surprised to find that they are using a lot of the same apps that have been popular for a while now but I also learned about some new ones too.
In my request from my colleagues, I didn’t specify what kind of app suggestions I wanted so, unsurprisingly, more of the answers fell into the texting or micro-blogging category, when what I really wanted was gaming apps. I admit I haven’t spent as much time as I probably should playing gaming apps so, a number of these were new to me, although they may not be to you.
The most frequently mentioned gaming app that seems to be all the rage right now is Stop. It’s a fun categories word game app you can play against others. You randomly select a letter to start and type a word for each of the 5 different categories that start with that letter. The player that gets most correct words wins. There are categories for Star Wars, superheroes and many others.
A number of librarians said that they and their teens were obsessed with Neko Atsume: Kitty Collector, the Japanese cat collecting game. The game’s very simple. The goal is to leave food and toys in your virtual backyard to attract cats – over 40 of them – all with their own unique looks and personality. Most of the cats are ordinary cats, but there are some rare cats too, but in order to get them to come, you need to lure them with special items. I first saw a colleague playing it last year and, although I prefer dogs to cats, it looked so adorable that I began playing it too. It’s quite addictive. In Japan they’ve had live-action recreations of the game that you can watch on YouTube.
Another popular Japanese game is the free Alpaca Evolution app. I’ve never played it but it sounds fun, although very strange. You are an alpaca that mutates and consumes other alpacas. As you consume other alpacas you evolve and mutate into something stronger and stranger. Every time you evolve you get a new description of your new form. It doesn’t require a lot of skill, but it’s a lot of fun seeing what disturbing alpaca monstrosity you evolve into next. An in-game encyclopedia explains each of your new forms in bizarre detail, rating your strength and giving you a bunch of useless vital statistics.
As a fan of both technology and reading, I love finding a great app almost as much as I love finding a great book. Even better is finding the perfect combination of the two: an app related to books or authors. In honor of Teen Tech Week, here are some great examples of apps that will appeal to readers.
Book Tie-In Games
With the skyrocketing popularity of mobile apps, many app designers have started designing apps that are set in the worlds of popular books. These apps are often released to coincide with the debut of a movie based on the book. Check out these games if you think playing through the world of your favorite books sounds like fun.
Temple Run: Oz: Wizard of Oz fans who are looking forward to seeing Oz The Great and Powerful will enjoy this version of the popular Temple Run games. While the gameplay is similar to that found in the other versions of Temple Run, the entire world is designed to look like Oz and includes functionality specific to the world, such as the ability to fly in a hot air balloon. Available for both Android and iOS devices, fans of Oz will want to take this chance to run down the Yellow Brick Road as Oz himself.
The Adventures of Tintin: The Game: With great 3D graphics that look a lot like the animation of the recent Tintin movie, this game will immerse you in the world of Tintin. At various points, you play as several different iconic Tintin characters, including his dog Snowy. Versions are available for both Android and iOS devices. And, for big Tintin fans, there is also an interactive version of the book, The Art of the Adventure of Tintin, available for iPad.
I love books, my iPad, and match-making, so in honor of Teen Tech Week, a YALSA initiative that promotes ethical and competent use of technology, I wanted to pair some of my new favorite books with some of my favorite apps.
Those who loved Across the Universe by Beth Revis (2011 Readers’ Choice nominee) can explore the universe from the comfort of their own home with Solar Walk for iPhone or iPad or Solar Planets 3D for Android devices. Both these apps are tours of our solar system that allow users to zoom in on planets while learning the history of space exploration. Who says you need a spaceship to navigate through space and time?
Books and technology are often pitted against each other. I mean, how many times have you heard (or said yourself!), “Ah, no e-reader for me! I’m a dead-tree person!” I am here to tell you, though, that we live in a world that doesn’t force you to chose! You can love books and technology. If, like me, you want to have your trees and your pixels, too, check out some of these awesome (free!) book-related apps for your iOS or Android phones or tablets.
Out of all the bibliovore apps I’ve tried and tired of, Goodreads is the one that has a permanent spot on my home screen. Allowing quick access to your goodreads.com account, this app lets you search for books that are already on your shelves, check out reviews from friends and other members, and even scan barcodes to add books to your shelves. A must-have for people who read so much they can’t keep up with what they want to check out next (or have already forgotten the last book they read!)
YALSA’s Teen Book Finder
Created by The Hub’s own parent organization, YALSA, the Teen Book Finder was created to help lovers of YA lit find more YA lit to love! Currently available only for iPads, iPhones, and iPod Touches, this app lets you see three years of awesome YALSA lists and awards, find libraries nearby that have the book you’re looking for, and then share what you’ve found on Facebook and Twitter. Don’t have an Apple device? Then keep your eyes peeled for the Android version, expected before the end of the year!
Quick! Give me a list of horror books that have all appeared on a YALSA booklist. Betcha can’t do it in 20 seconds or less! Or can you…?
YALSA launched its new Teen Book Finder app this week, and it is a really fun tool for YA lit lovers. Funded by the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, the app has a simple interface that allows users to access the full catalog of YALSA’s book awards and selection lists.
Opening the app lands the user on a home page, where three daily “Hot Picks” are displayed. Tapping on the search button allows users to search by title, author, genre, year, award, and booklist. Users can also build a personalized list of favorite titles. For a thorough overview of all the apps features, please see tech guru Linda Braun’s excellent video on the YALSAblog.
I learned about the Art of the Adventures of Tintin app via an article in TechCrunch titled “TinTin iPad Art Book Blurs The Line Between Books, Movies, And Apps.” The article made me very curious to see how the app works and how it is and isn’t like a traditional physical book. So, I bought it. I think the best way to let you in on the features of the app is through a screencast – which you can check-out below.
As the holiday gift giving season approaches, and more and more teens with whom you work will have access to e-reading devices, whether it be an iPad, iPhone, Droid device, or a dedicated e-reader such as the Nook, it’s important to become familiar with what to look for in an e-reading app. That way you can make good suggestions to teens and the adults in their lives about what to use for their e-reading experiences. Of course, not all e-reading apps work with books that can be downloaded from the library. However, as you connect teens with materials that might not come from the library, you will want to be able to help them assess what apps best meet their specific purpose and needs.
Many e-reading apps include features that allow for taking notes and highlighting of text. The screencast below shows you a bit of how that works using the Kindle app.(Which is available for a wide-variety of devices.)