We're really going after the kids' space in a big way,” said Josh Koppel, co-founder and chief creative officer for ScrollMotion, the iPhone book-app developer, which will launch a new kids' e-book reader app this fall that will bring enhanced picture books from major publishers to the iPhone.
The company has already gone after the adult market, bringing many frontlist titles (by such authors as Dan Brown and Stephen King) to the iPhone through its Iceberg reader app platform. Now ScrollMotion is making a big push into the YA and children's market—it has created iPhone versions of most of the Beverly Cleary books, Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series, Eragon by Christopher Paolini, and Neil Gaiman's Coraline, for instance. This fall the company will launch a children's version of its Iceberg Reader that Koppel said will “fold in lots of partners and integrate text, audio and pictures in an organic and fun manner that is interactive for parents and kids, with buttons and interactions especially designed for small fingers.”
The new children's reader, which will debut by Christmas, is set to meet a growing demand from publishers for enhanced e-book apps. These days children's publishers and readers expect more from their digitized books than just a digital rendition of the texts and pictures—they want other enhancements, like audio, animation and interactivity, which ScrollMotion is eager to provide.
From ScrollMotion's Curious George app.
Curious George's Dictionary, an app that ScrollMotion and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt launched in the app store in June, gives a sense of what the new Iceberg reader will do, and of what publishers want from children's and YA e-book apps. Though the Curious George app takes most of its content from the print book, it does things only an app can do. The dictionary, which contains more than 600 entries and illustrations, is enhanced with audio—letters and words are pronounced aloud—and is searchable by letter. Curious George's Dictionary is hard to classify—it's more than an e-book: a bit like a game, and a bit like an educational tool. And according to Koppel, it offers the kind of experience we can expect to see more of soon: “If you look at Curious George, you'll see there's going to be a lot of functionality.” Similarly, ScrollMotion has also developed an app for James Patterson's graphic novel Daniel X, which creates a reading experience somewhere between watching a cartoon and reading a comic.
David Langevin, v-p of digital business development at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, who worked with ScrollMotion to develop the Curious George app, is excited about the potential of this way of bringing books to the iPhone screen. “We think Scroll-Motion did a great job making Curious George's Dictionary fun to use,” said Langevin. “It reflects the beauty of the book and adds a dimension with the functionality and the audio. It's not just an electronic representation of the book.”
James Patterson's Daniel X
makes its way to the iPhone.
According to Langevin, HMH has other Curious George books in the pipeline, and intends to make available “all the children's books for which we have rights and can provide an electronic file format for conversation to the Iceberg platform. This is really just the start.” He says the publisher is working with ScrollMotion as well as other companies: “We're looking to partner with all viable distributors of electronic children's books. This is a different kind of opportunity where these companies can provide something beyond the e-book experience.”
Both Koppel and Langevin believe that the iPhone is the device to start with for enhanced children's e-books. While most kids may not have their own iPhones, Koppel points out that “I see parents hand their iPhones to their kids. We're feeling the iPhone is the place to define the products and define the experiences before we move them into other places.” Plus, rumors are spreading about the possible launch later this year of an Apple tablet computer that could compete with the Kindle, meaning Apple could expand its e-book involvement much further.
Though he won't mention specific titles because deals are still pending, Koppel says he expects to launch the new reader with “a large selection of classic titles. We're working with Hachette, HarperCollins, Random House, Simon & Schuster. Some of our deals are exclusive and others are not,” he said. “None of the other companies has really robust ideas about what books are—it's just text. I don't think our competitors are quite handling this the way we are.”