I was reading Boing Boing this morning and found a link to the The International Children's Digital Library. According to Wired News, the library is scheduled to open tomorrow, but it seems to be up and running today.
I went to check out the site and was disappointed with what I found. There appears to be many books from different cultures, the Wired article says over 200 books in 15 languages, and the site has bright colors and graphics that should be appealing to children. However, as I tried to access the library, I found that I needed to have a Java(TM) Virtual Machine loaded on my computer.
Luckily the kids were not looking over my shoulder. A good time is often squelched when I say, "Hang on 20 minutes girls, while I load more software on the computer". They usually slink off and find something more exciting to do. That's exactly how I felt after fooling around with this stupid Dell laptop running Windows NT. After a time-consuming download and installation, I went back and "entered the library". Immediately, another download started on my computer, delivering over 6MB of JAR files, followed by a "scary" Security Alert informing me that the program was going to have access to my entire computer, and did I trust the University of Maryland (the site's creator).
I gave the program permission, and finally got into the library. Again, I was happy that the kids were not around. The navigation through the library is clumsy, relying on a Yahoo!->Like->Web->Directory->Structure that is supplemented with some cute graphics, but is not very kid friendly. The performance on my computer was abysmal. Granted, my computer just barely meets the minimum system requirements (700MHz Pentium III, 256MB RAM), but running through Java really makes things crawl. Older children might be able to cope, but the attention span of my little ones is not that great. We'll stick to the books made out of paper for now.