Last week we looked at how some adult trade houses view the potential market for apps, finding that most publishers are cautiously moving into this area. While adult and children’s divisions face many of the same questions about apps—costs, sales potential, and whether they should drive profits or market books—children’s content is generally more suited to this space. Still, like their adult counterparts, children’s publishers are developing apps slowly. PW contacted a number of children’s divisions and houses and found that many publishers are experimenting with different formats—some are creating heavily educational material (which occasionally doesn’t even link to a specific title), others are investing in games, and still others are looking for more direct ways of adapting existing fiction into an app.
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Bloomsbury is creating its first app this season, based on Carrie Jones’s YA paranormal romance series Need. A spokesperson for the house said the planned release date for the app is December, to coincide with the publication of the third book in the series, Entice. The app, which will be free, will allow kids to send a “kiss” to their friends that could be from one of the three central characters—Zara, Nick, or Astley. (The novels, which feature pixies, focus on a love triangle among the three characters, and a pixie kiss can be either a good thing or a bad thing.) The app will also bring users deeper into the world of the books, with links to a Web page featuring each character and a route to Bloomsbury’s Needpixies Facebook fan page.
Disney Publishing Worldwide
Disney has a significant commitment to monetizing some of its big brands with apps. The publisher’s first app, which is free, is based on Toy Story and is what it calls a “premium storybook.” Apps based on installments two and three in the Toy Story saga are also available, priced at $3.99 and $8.99 respectively. The publisher has also created iPhone/iPod Touch apps called Mickey’s Spooky Night and Winnie the Pooh: What’s a Bear to Do?, each of which is 99 cents. Just launched is Disney Epic Digicomics, the first story is free, with five additional tales that can be purchased together for $2.99. Later this month, the house is also launching Disney Epic Mickey, set to coincide with the release of the video game of the same name.
HarperCollins Children’s Books
The children’s division of HarperCollins releases all of its apps through its e-imprint, Curious Puppy. The house currently has two apps on the market, ABC Song and 123 Ants Go Marching. Both apps have a heavy educational emphasis and neither is directly tied to a book. Each app costs 99 cents and is available for the iPhone and iPod Touch. Curious Puppy is also about to launch a third app, which HC estimates should be on the market in a few weeks, called Freight Train, based on Donald Crews’s picture book of the same name.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s Book Group
HMH developed a number of apps with ScrollMotion based on Curious George titles. The majority of them, said senior v-p of digital strategies, Cheryl Cramer-Toto, mimic the experience of the book itself. The one exception is the Curious George dictionary app which, although it does relate to a title of the same name, offers a number of interactive features. Among other things, kids can tap an object to hear what it is. Cramer-Toto said that the children’s division has six apps in development now—they’re based on book characters—that are scheduled to release in early December.
Penguin Young Readers Group
PYRG is set to release its second app (after doing a Mad Libs app earlier this year) in a few weeks—an interactive version of the children’s classic The Little Engine That Could (which is published by the house’s Grosset & Dunlap imprint). The app, which is not priced yet, will be available on both the iPad and iPhone/iPod Touch. Don Weisberg, president of the group, said the publisher is also working on “select marketing and game apps, based on upcoming picture books and novels.”
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
LBBYR is set to release two apps based on books one and two in Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl’s Caster Chronicles series, Beautiful Creatures (Dec. 2009) and Beautiful Darkness (Oct. 2010). The apps are slated to hit the App Store just before the holidays, and each will feature the electronic text of the accompanying title, new content (in the form of deleted scenes and recipes from the characters), songs, tests that challenge readers’ knowledge of the books, the audio version of the title, as well as photographs and art.
Random House Children’s Books
Judith Haut, senior v-p of communications and marketing at RH Children’s Books, said the key to children’s apps is making them “innovative and cutting edge,” especially “as competition increases.” Haut also believes that, in this area of publishing, it’s essential to makes apps that “reflect the character of the particular brand or title—remaining true to the essence of the original book.” The division’s forthcoming apps for How Rocket Learned to Read and Princess Baby are based on books or characters of the same name. The division also has a partnership with the interactive agency Smashing Ideas and is creating with them “a wide range of app projects for key authors and brands.”
With its ability to develop apps in-house and its access to nonbook properties, Scholastic is one of the leaders in the app space among the children’s houses, having created six iPhone/iPod Touch apps, and two iPad apps. A spokesperson for the publisher said the apps the publisher has made have “performed well,” noting that, at one point, the I Spy Spooky Mansion app broke into the top five apps among paid kids’ games. The spokesperson added that Scholastic continues to emphasize educational elements in its apps—the I Spy app, for example, requires users to solve riddles, and a Clifford app, Clifford’s Be Big with Words, incorporates vocabulary-building skills into a game revolving around the big red dog. Scholastic has other apps based on the 39 Clues and one called WordGirl Word Hunt.
Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing
S&S cited three projects when asked about its offerings for kids. One, based on The Band Book, builds off the current fad over Silly Bandz (rubber bracelets made in the shape of animals and other things). Simon Spotlight published author Ilanit Oliver and illustrator Dan Potash’s paperback in August. The accompanying 99-cent app, the Band App, which is available for the iPhone and iPod Touch, creates a game with Silly Bandz in which users need to match different shapes to correctly identify a combined Silly Band. S&S has also dabbled with apps based on the Choose Your Own Adventure line, creating three apps—each is $3.99 and available for both the iPad and iPhone/iPod Touch—with Expanded Books/Expanded Apps and Choose Your Own Adventure creator Edward Packard. S&S calls the series U-Ventures, and the first app, Return to the Cave of Time, was released in late July. (The apps, which mimic the reading experience of the series—in which the author selects the path the story will follow from a handful of options—relate to stories from the original series, but not current S&S titles.) The publisher also created a game based on Tony DiTerlizzi’s middle-grade novel, The Search for WondLa, which pubbed in September. The app relies on art from the book for a “spot-the-difference” game—users are given two nearly identical images and then must find the ways in which they differ.