In a move that points to the creation of new forms of interactive content the Hachette Book Group has reached an agreement with Amazon to partner on creating content for Alexa and the Echo Dot Kids Edition, a children's version of the voice-controlled digital assistant.
Hachette and Amazon are partnering on Classroom 13 Skill, a new choose-your-own-adventure story, created specifically for Alexa and the Echo device, and adapted from the popular illustrated kid’s chapter book series by Honest Lee and Matthew Gilbert. Classroom 13 Skill follows a teacher who finds a magic lamp that will grant each of her students one wish. The tongue-in-cheek series is said to be narrated by Honest Lee, the fictional coauthor of Gilbert, who writes the series.
The new choose-your-adventure story format is activated and controlled by voice commands directed at Alexa (the interactive software that runs the Echo Dot device) to initiate what HBG calls “an immersive storytelling" experience for children.
As voice-activated assistants Alexa/Echo proliferate--similar products and competitors include Google's Google Assistant, Microsoft’s Cortana and Apple’s Siri--interest by publishers is growing in new forms of technology-driven storytelling.
HBG senior v-p of corporate communications Sophie Cottrell said Classroom 13 Skill was specifically adapted for the Alexa/Echo device from the print work, The Disastrous Magical Wishes of Classroom 13, and that the publisher plans on developing more content for devices like Alexa and Echo Dot.
“We’re exploring a wide range of innovative channels for our content," Cottrell said, noting that the HBG Product Innovation Team was behind the creation of Classroom 13 Skill. Although she would not provide specifics about new titles or initiatives, Cottrell said the HBG Product Innovation Team “builds on this platform, along with many other platforms."
Although the Classroom 13 content for the Alexa/Echo platform is a voice activated aural experience, Cottrell said, “we don’t consider it an audiobook.” She also declined to describe or define the licensing terms surrounding the content, or confirm the royalty structure for authors and creators, saying only that the publisher's terms with Amazon are confidential. It is unclear if existing author contracts give publishers the right to develop products for digital assistants or if that would fall under a new clause.
Asked if there were any privacy or data collection concerns about a device controlled by vocal commands from children, Cottrell said that the Alexa device "complies with COPPA [Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule]" and that Hachette "does not receive any data from children via Amazon.”
In a release about the new content partnership, Jackie Engel, v-p and associate publisher of Little, Brown for Young Readers, said: “As technology changes the way our children discover new stories, Hachette Book Group is committed to producing innovative content to meet kids on these emerging services."