Scholastic is going digital. The world's largest children's book publisher is digitizing the bulk of its titles and releasing its first e-reading app, called Storia. While many trade publishers are reaching 20% in digital revenue, the kids’ e-book market is stuck at about 5%, and Scholastic is eager to change all that.
The Storia app, free to download with a beta version available today, offers about 1,300 e-books and multimedia e-books with popular series including “Clifford the Big Red Dog” and “Ready, Freddy!” available in digital format for the first time. It's designed for children ages 3-14 and currently available for PC tablets, with versions for iPad and iPhone and Android devices coming soon.
According to PaidContent, Storia's titles can be sorted by grade level, reading level, age and character/series, and enriched e-books “use word games, story interactions, and animation to deeply draw your young reader in, further developing confidence and critical thinking skills.”
The e-reader app can be shared by several children in one family and populate multiple e-bookshelves, and the initial download comes with five free books. Titles will range in price from $1.95 to $20.
“We see Storia as following three basic principles: One size does not fit all. Parental involvement. And the activities and functions allow for interactive engagement,” commented Scholastic Media president Deborah Forte. Storia’s goal is to make e-books “more accessible and more relevant…as a way to support reading and something that’s just plain fun,” she adds.
The Scholastic move comes as Amazon and Barnes & Noble are both further developing their kids’ e-book offerings. Storia’s ultimate goal — and, indeed, that of the burgeoning children’s e-book industry — is keeping books, storytelling and reading relevant for children, no matter the device or platform.
“We are just at the dawn of digital for kids’ books,” said Kevin O’Conner, B&N’s Nook Kids director of business development and content acquisitions, at the Publishers Launch conference in January, according to PaidContent. The company’s Nook Kids currently has 1,626 titles.
Amazon, meanwhile, recently purchased 450 kids' titles from Marshall Cavendish to sell in digital and print, and sees digital as “a chance to connect a terrific group of authors and illustrators with more readers,” according to Amazon Publishing VP Jeff Belle. Amazon's Children’s Books for Kindle Fire division currently offers 981 titles.
According to PaidContent's latest stats about the kids' e-books market, from RR Bowker’s PubTrack Consumer, the e-Book market for for the 12-and-under set is poised to take off:
• Bricks-and-mortar bookstores are still the number-one source of discovery for children’s books with more than 85% bought on impulse.
• The child asking for a book in the store is the top driver of children’s book purchases and influences 52% of purchases.
• 27% of the kids surveyed own their own computer, 25% an iPhone, 12% an iPod Touch, 7% an e-reader and 4% an iPhone.
• Nearly two-thirds of book-buying parents want to see books identified by grade level or reading level.
• 75% of parents surveyed haven’t bought an e-book, but 56% are likely to begin reading them “soon.” Kids are more likely to start reading e-books when their parents start.
• Kids and parents have different attitudes about e-books. Two-thirds of parents think it’s better for kids to read in print. But 7- to 12-year-old kids aren’t concerned about the look and feel of e-books and say they are “fun and cool,” cost less and entice them to read more.