With a new subscription site called Readeo.com, which launches this week, children and adults in different citiescan see live video of each other sharing digital picture books. All that's missing:snuggling while reading the stories.
So far four publishers—Candlewick Press, Simon& Schuster, Chronicle Books, and Blue Apple Books—are licensing titles toChicago-based Readeo. In return, they receive an undisclosed percentage ofReadeo's revenues-and expose their books to a new audience.
Readeo will charge members $9.95 per month, or$99.95 per year, for unlimited viewing of all books on the site. CobyNeuenschwander. founder and CEO of Readeo, declined to estimate how many subscribershe expects by the end of the year. But he noted that 22.5 million U.S.families have children ages eight and younger (his picture book audience)."There are 70 million grandparents in the U.S. and many divorced families,military, and traveling business people who are not regularly with the childrenthey care about," he said.
That audience appealed to publishers who heardReadeo's pitch. "Everyone who was in the room either could use it themselves orknew someone who could use it," said Paul Crichton, director of publicity forSimon & Schuster Children's Publishing.
Another selling point: Readeo's editor, JennyBrown. Brown, formerly a children's book editor at HarperCollins and children'sreviews editor at Publishers Weekly,is currently children's editor of the ShelfAwareness newsletter.
John Mendelson, senior v-p of sales and digitalinitiatives for Candlewick Press, isn't worried about cannibalizing his printstories for kids under eight. "New people might discover our titles throughthis platform and might discover they want the physical book for their homelibrary," he said. "We see this as a new market for our books." He and otherpublishers are not signing exclusive deals with Readeo. "We see it as but onepossible mate in the digital marketplace," said Mendelson.
Anyone with a webcam can test the site with afree look at Readeo's book of the month—Chris Van Dusen's The Circus Ship. So far only 35 other titles are available, to subscribersonly. But Readeo plans to expand its offerings as it adds publishers and as itspartners work through digital-rights issues.
Readeo's competitors include Ripple Reader, which launched last fall,and lets adults record picture books so kids can listen to their voices overand over again; and A Story Before Bed, which letsadults record audio and video of themselves reading picture books that kids canwatch any time, and which recently signed a deal with San Francisco publisher Immedium.