Like many kids, I really liked C.S. Lewis’s Narnia books when I was young. I often pictured myself in them, taking part in all the action and adventure. Of course, they had to go and make movies and spoil the fantasy with some of the most annoying child actors to ever grace a screen, never mind the possibility that the books were all just religious propaganda in the first place. But still, for kids, the books were great escapism.
The arrival of e-books means the whole concept can be taken a step further. Rather than kids imagining themselves in adventures, they can literally be put into them. Indeed, there’s a cottage industry arising around the idea.
Sites such as I’m In It allow parents to custom order children’s e-books that place their child’s name and/or likeness into the story itself. The site also allows the person making the order to insert a recorded message into the e-book, which is “perfect for grandparents, aunts, uncles, and military families.”
That particular site appears to sell original stories, but others are arising that use well-known works. Personal Ebooks, for one, is selling a customizable version of Alice in Wonderland, where the parent can swap out Alice in favour of their own daughter. A male child could similarly be put in, but that might result in some awkward parts.
It’s an interesting trend that has some potentially positive effects. Studies have shown that the more children can associate with a story, the more their imagination is stimulated. And imagination is, of course, important for developing cognitive reasoning.
There are some half-hearted attempts out there to do this sort of thing with adult books, but surely the big publishers will realize this is a burgeoning market. I, for one, would love to picture myself inside something like Lord of the Rings or Neuromancer.