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March 21 2012

No more book app sifting: PlayTales designed its bookstore within an app

This post is part of the TOC podcast series. You can also subscribe to the free TOC podcast through iTunes.


A quick look at the bestsellers on the iPad indicates that kids books are a hot area. PlayTales is one of the leaders in this space, and I recently got to speak with their marketing and PR manager, Anna Abraham. If you're not familiar with PlayTales, you'll want to check out their free bookstore iPad app in iTunes. In this interview, Abraham talks about what makes PlayTales unique and describes how they've embraced the opportunities in children's ebook publishing.

Key points from the full video interview (below) include:

  • It all starts with discoverability — PlayTales is a store within an app. It's a one-stop option for parents, which helps them avoid the frustration of sifting through the app store. [Discussed at the 1:00 mark.]
  • Going beyond a single platform — Most publishers in this space are focused on iOS and little else. While the iPad is the dominant tablet platform (for now, at least), PlayTales is wisely investing in other platforms as well. [Discussed at 2:01.]
  • Most of their content is digital-first — Repurposing is tempting, but as PlayTales has found, a digital end-product is often best started from scratch. This approach also helps avoid some of the licensing and rights pitfalls that can come from reuse, especially when that existing content was contracted in the pre-digital era. [Discussed at 2:54.]
  • Exclusive vs. non-exclusive — You might be surprised to hear that PlayTales contracts with their authors on a non-exclusive basis. They believe they can earn an author's loyalty by being a great publishing partner. What a concept! [Discussed at 3:35.]
  • Impressive stats — With approximately 1.5 million book reads per month and 3-5K new downloads per day, PlayTales is already reaching a sizable audience. More importantly, approximately 19% of the people who download the free app become paying customers as well. [Discussed at 4:20.]

You can view the entire interview in the following video.

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February 27 2012

Story first, interactivity second

This post is part of the TOC podcast series. You can also subscribe to the free TOC podcast through iTunes.


Children's book apps are among the most popular products in the iTunes app store. Persian Cat Press recently released one called "The Gift," and it's turning a lot of heads. "The Gift" was written specifically for the iPad, so it's not a repurposed product that originated in print. In this interview with Jos Carlyle, Persian Cat Press creative director, we learn more about what goes into the creation of a successful children's book app.

Key points from the full video interview (below) include:

  • Exciting times for multi-sensory content — The new opportunities touch screens like the iPad offer content producers are seemingly endless. [Discussed at the 1:00 mark.]
  • Story first, interactivity second — The story is written first, of course, but the app's interactivity can't be treated as a last-minute add-on. The reader's interaction must be carefully woven into the story so the two are seamless. [Discussed at 8:14.]
  • Multiple reading scenarios have to be considered — The app might be read by a parent to a child, or it might just be used by a child on his or her own. Various features are included to allow either option, but they have to be implemented in a manner that doesn't feel awkward or obtrusive. [Discussed at 9:00.]
  • Addressing the discoverability problem — Persian Cat Press has taken matters into their own hands. Besides networking with popular bloggers and reviewers, they've created a free app called Cat-Nav that reviews apps and helps make them more visible. [Discussed at 15:20.]
  • What's the "right" price? — It's unfortunate, but important, to realize that book apps are competing with other types of apps, and customers have been conditioned to expect cheaper pricing across the board. The result is a richer, more dynamic product than something similar in print but at a lower price than print ... at least for now. [Discussed at 16:50.]

You can view the entire interview in the following video.


Jos Carlyle will be speaking at TOC Bologna on March 18th . Registration is currently open, but the event is likely to sell out, so be sure to buy your ticket soon.


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January 23 2012

Children's ebooks and apps are big business on the iPad

This post is part of the TOC podcast series. You can also subscribe to the free TOC podcast through iTunes.


If you look at the top paid products in the "Books" category of the iTunes App store, you'll typically see that children's products dominate the list. Children's books and apps are big business on the iPad. This will, of course, be a core focus of next month's TOC Bologna. I thought it would be nice to preview that event by talking about the state of the market in this podcast interview with Neal Hoskins (@utzy), founder of WingedChariot.

Key points from the full video interview (below) include:

  • Formats and size are a challenge for this content — Even though mobile devices are getting smaller, the current iPad screen size is smaller than the print edition of many children's books, leaving the print version as a more inviting option. [Discussed at the 1:52 mark.]
  • EPUB vs. App? — Publishers face the same dilemma here as they do in other genres. Am I better off simply porting content from print to an EPUB edition, or should I invest in custom app development, native to a particular platform? [Discussed at 6:02.]
  • Languages and multi-lingual layers — Digital platforms represent an enormous opportunity for WingedChariot to extend the multi-lingual reach of their products. One of their recent apps, My House, is a great example of how the user can easily switch between French and English through the touch of a button. [Discussed at 12:50.]
  • Nothing beats hands-on research — WingedChariot has done extensive research with children on what they like about devices, apps, etc. They've also published much of this research. Sample videos are here and here. [Discussed at 14:50.]
  • Three platforms for the mid-term future — Neal sees three companies/platforms vying for the future of this market: Google, Apple and ... Microsoft. It's interesting that he doesn't include Amazon in this list although Google is, of course, the platform behind the Amazon Kindle Fire. [Discussed at 17:50.]

You can view the entire interview in the following video.


Want to hear more about the children's book marketplace? Be sure to register now for TOC Bologna, which takes place on March 18th.

TOC NY 2012 — O'Reilly's TOC Conference, being held Feb. 13-15, 2012, in New York City, is where the publishing and tech industries converge. Practitioners and executives from both camps will share what they've learned and join together to navigate publishing's ongoing transformation.

Register to attend TOC 2012

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