Although founded by Kate Wilson, a veteran figure in British children's book publishing, Nosy Crow, a U.K.-based kids' publishing startup, is working to establish itself as an app developer focused on the children’s market. To that end, it has just released The Three Little Pigs, its first effort in producing a children’s multimedia app for the iPad.
Founded a little over a year ago by Wilson, former managing director of both Macmillan Children's Publishing U.K. and Scholastic U.K., Nosy Crow publishes traditional children’s books, but is focused on developing an infrastructure to produce interactive apps for children that exploit the multimedia functionality of the iPad. Based in London, Nosy Crow has also published three traditional print titles; however, the publisher’s first app is not based on a print title, but on a classic fairy tale. The app offers the classic story told through animation, audio and interactive functionality—kids can read or listen along and swipe the screen to make characters jump, throw stuff around or can huff and puff into the microphone and watch the animated houses be blown away.
“We chose to use a fairy tale because people know what they’re getting,” Wilson told PW during a phone interview from London. “Parents have a sense of what it is, whether it's scary. It’s also a story that has stood the test of time; it's dramatic, short and a lot happens. High drama lends itself well to the device.” Wilson said that while the house plans to produce up to five apps and as many as 25 print titles per year, Nosy Crow is focused on developing multimedia apps that are not based on print titles.
Nevertheless, she acknowledged that Nosy Crow revenues skew to the print side. “We know how to make money in print. App development is expensive, labor intensive and a new market,” she said. But she was quick to point out the advantages of digital publishing, “I don’t need a warehouse, there’s no stock, no sales force or sales infrastructure and we’re immediately a global publisher and we’ll have worldwide rights on all of our apps.”
Wilson said that after running massive corporate publishing operations, she wanted to run a small company that would focus on digital publishing and experimentation. “When you’re running a corporate publisher, you’re so focused on feeding the infrastructure that it can be hard to start something different, even when you know you should be experimenting,” she said. “Touchscreens are intuitive, mobile and immediate. They’re a game changer for us and to be in 2010 and not to embrace the digital world would be a drastic mistake. Now we can use these devices to tell stories in new and exciting ways,” Wilson said.
Setting out, Wilson said she initially outsourced such tasks as coding and animation, before deciding to bring them back in-house. “We needed to build our own ability for coding and animation so we can build a collaborative process, learn to scale it and repeat the process for future titles,” she explained. The house does outsource illustration, music and audio, “in order to get a wide range of talent.”
Wilson said they target mothers in their marketing (“we can speak mom to mom, our books and apps are quite safe”), and the devices allow kids to explore levels in the stories. In fact she emphasized that “kids have high expectations for what they get on screens. We’re in competition with experiences like Angry Birds, not just print,” she said, “and if literacy matters, we have to create reading experiences at least as engaging as everything else they find on these devices. It’s a source of obligation to create readers for the future.”