Sourcebooks has launched e-book editions of eight Hear It Read It Classics, which are abridged versions of stories, including King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table and Peter Pan, which in 2008 were published in hardcover with an audio CD.

The new e-books were originally released before this year's BEA. “We had a very soft launch,” says Todd Stocke, v-p and editorial director at Sourcebooks. “It was so soft that a bunch of the metadata was incorrect, and not fully fleshed out. We tested some things on the data end, like the ability to merchandize in the iTunes store. The initial price point was $9.99 – the same as the printed books.” The new price of $4.99, he said, reflects what Sourcebooks feels is a “good value” for the technology.

The new e-books feature full-color illustrations, pages that turn automatically, and a toggle on/toggle off function for the audio, which is read by actors including Sean Bean (Boromir in the Lord of the Rings trilogy). “I’ve been doing books with CDs since the late ’90s,” Stocke continues. “It was always a challenge to get people to use the CD along with the book.” Sourcebooks has made some forays into multimedia publishing, such as adult poetry with audio and images. But the Hear It Read It line of e-books is the company’s first major such venture in the children’s category.

Eight titles are currently available for iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, or the computer. Though there are no firm dates yet, Sourcebooks will roll out the line for Nook next, followed by Kindle. Stocke says the company wants to ensure the electronic format provides a strong reading experience, rather than be just another app. “So many e-books are really games,” he says. “You push this, and that jumps. To get an actual reading experience is important to us.”