After more than 18 months of development, Scholastic has begun beta tests for Storia, its proprietary e-book platform for selling and distributing its trade titles as well as digital editions of titles from other children’s houses. The beta test features 1,300 titles with the vast majority published by Scholastic; Deborah Forte, executive v-p and president of Scholastic Media, said she expects Storia to have about 2,000 titles when it makes its official debut in the fall.

Scholastic is promoting Storia to teachers and parents and has designed the app to appeal to two different age groups. “We didn’t want to do a one size fits all system,” said Forte during a demo of Storia at Scholastic headquarters late last month. Books are grouped in a 3-7 year-old range and 8-14. Customers download the free app and can chose a title to place on their own "book shelf" that users can personalize.

Parents will have more control over books for younger readers and will have access to a management tool that will enable them to assign books to their children, create passwords and limit the types of books children can read. The tool will also provide reports on what the children have read and at what rate, although there will be no assessment tools, Forte said. Storia retains the design of the books and makes it simple for readers to turn the digital pages. The e-books have lots of interactive features, including an audio dictionary and “lightning bolt” icons that are linked to a range of activities designed to support reading.

The Storia option for older students has a more sophisticated look and options, including highlighting and note taking features. All codes for such Scholastic books as the 39 Clues series have been retained in the Storia editions. Its interactivity options include trivia questions that are based on the individual books. Forte said Scholastic was careful to balance the amount of options included because the company wants to ensure that the children “stay involved with the books and reading.”

Storia is platform agnostic and is currently available for use on PCs, with an iPad version set to be released later this month. Versions for other tablets and smart phones will be ready by the fall. For the beta, Scholastic will have 250 enriched e-books and expects to have 300 by the official launch. Seth Seigel-Laddy, v-p, technology and digital services at Scholastic Media, said there were only a few Scholastic titles that the company has been unable to transfer to Storia.

Forte said Storia’s e-books will be priced similar to print editions sold through its clubs and fairs. Since reader’s can search for books by a number of ways, Scholastic believes Storia will make it easier to discover books. Storia, Forte believes, will help books remain relevant for children.