Two years after launching the online book service A Story Before Bed, which synchronizes children’s books with a video recording capability that allows family members to document and preserve the act of reading books together, Seattle-based Jackson Fish Market Books has announced that its original digital children’s books are now available for free downloads.
Hillel Cooperman, who created the software startup A Story Before Bed with his former Microsoft colleagues Jenny Lam and Walter Smith, approached several publishers for the rights to a variety of children’s books to be used on the Web site. “While we were waiting for permission we decided to make our own kids’ books for back-up material,” Cooperman says. “We started primarily with titles that are in the public domain, such as classics and fairy tales, and then hired authors and illustrators to produce the e-books for us.”
Jackson Fish now has 60 such titles, which it owns the rights to. These are the books that are being offered free to customers for static PDF displays. Customers of A Story Before Bed can utilize them with the video recording format but must be paid subscribers to do so.
Rate plans vary; the six-month plan is $9.99 per month, 12 months cost $7.99 per month, and the monthly fee for 24 months is $5.99. Subscribers must pay the total amount up front and are then allowed an unlimited number of videos and titles. At the end of the subscription the recordings are the property of the subscribers.
“We’re like Netflix for recordable books,” Cooperman says. “We want to be everywhere.” A Story Before Bed's e-books and video playback are compatible with iPhones, iPads, and the iPod Touch. The company has had 450,000 downloads thus far of its app, which is free and gives users at least three books to record for free; Cooperman will not reveal the number of paid subscribers.
Publishers, including Chronicle Books, Sourcebooks, Charlesbridge, and Orca Books, are paid a royalty each time a title is recorded. Between Jackson Fish Market and A Story Before Bed there are now 428 titles available to subscribers. Cooperman and his partners are adding to their own books with an original series, The Kid Scientist League, about famous scientists when they were children. This will be followed by similar series about artists and musicians. “In a way, we’re doing the same thing as Amazon Publishing, providing original book content to the digital market,” he says.
When asked if the company will ever produce paper books, Cooperman cites his concerns about the impact of traditional books on the environment and the loss of trees as the reason Jackson Fish will stick with its digital format. “No one else has tied both video and audio to books before,” says Cooperman. “Our service brings people together who might live thousands of miles apart. I have three kids, and their grandparents all live on the East Coast. It’s easy to see what the genesis of A Story Before Bed was.