As part of the Little eLit “think tank”, I have learned a lot about what librarians need to know about the app world to serve their communities well in the digital age. Among the most common questions we get from librarians, teachers and the general public are questions about how to get apps for free or on a very tight budget. While we consistently recommend high quality paid apps in many of the blog posts we do, the reality is that many institutions have no budget at all for exploring the app world, especially the amount of content necessary to understand the diversity and range of quality within the app market.
Often, when training librarians and teachers about the digital shift and how to evaluate new media like book apps for children, they are overwhelmed. It is easy, when feeling this kind of anxiety to stick close to what is familiar.
As a result, most of the content that is ‘explored’ in app form is ‘tried and true’ or at least part of the fabric of popular culture. This favors some new transmedia content based on popular characters from television and movies, but primarily gives way to a market dominated by formerly print books, reworked more or less for a touch screen. One way for readers to take those first tentative steps away from the familiar titles on the digital bookshelf is to download apps for free. And there are (at least) five different categories of free apps to take into consideration: