Lookybook's virtual kids' library

Franklin And The Thunderstorm, image courtesy of Lookybook. Copyrighted. If you’ve ever used a Scholastic books order form to buy picture books for your kids (or someone else’s) and found yourself wishing you flip through the book first, this site is for you.

We’ve got two kids between the ages of 3 and 6 and like all other kids, they adore story time. My wife and I love it too. It’s a brief moment during an otherwise crazy schedule in which we all take a deep breath, relax, and enjoy a tale while snuggled between the stuffed animals that occupy the majority of the sleeping area.

We’re extremely lucky in that we have literally hundreds of picture books to choose from every night, thanks to my wife’s (and our extended family’s) deep addiction to book buying. When that Scholastic order form comes home in the kids’ backpacks you can forget about having a meaningful conversation until it has been thoroughly perused, ear-marked and annotated.

Now I’m not knocking Scholastic – they have a great service at an unbeatable price – but those order forms often leave me feeling unsatisfied. You get to see a small thumbnail of the book’s cover, its title, author, illustrator and a very brief synopsis. That’s it. Talk about judging a book by its cover!

Most of our book orders have been successful, but as you’d expect, we’ve also had our share of disappointments.

Thankfully, there is now a web service that is just getting underway (it’s still in beta) called Lookybook.

Lookybook takes picture books in their entirety and creates electronic versions that you can ‘flip’ through right on their site. You get to see the whole book, from cover to cover. They even provide a handy embed option that lets a blogger or anyone else with a web page, provide a smaller version of the book for their audience, like so:

(Franklin is VERY popular in our house). Now I suppose if you wanted, you could drag your laptop onto the bed with you and read these books to your kids without paying a dime. But I doubt that will satisfy many parents or kids. Instead, the site is intended to provide parents with a way to vet the entire book before they buy – much like you would if you were in a library or bookstore – and for kids to explore on their own, hopefully with an adult around to take note of any items that catch their interest.

Of course, no website would be complete these days without a social component, and Lookybook delivers by allowing people to sign in to the site in order to share reviews and comments on each book, as well as add favourite books to a personal ‘bookshelf’. And yes, there are links to buy the books too, from various web-based bookstores (all U.S. sites at the time of this post).

With only 300 titles, Lookybook is still small. But with time, I can see them becoming the Amazon for kids.