By Dennis Abrams
Following eighteen months of development, Scholastic Inc. has begun beta tests for Storia, its proprietary platform for selling and distributing its own trade titles as well as digital editions of other children’s houses. The app will make such favorite picture series as Clifford the Big Red Dog and Ready, Freddy! available in a digital format for the first time.
The beta version features 1,300 titles, the vast majority published by Scholastic. It became available March 8 for teachers and families who buy through the Scholastic Book Clubs and other Scholastic sales channels. Deborah Forte, President, Scholastic Media and EVP, Scholastic Inc., said she expects Storia to have more than 2,000 books available when it launches for the general public in the fall.
Scholastic is promoting Storia to both teachers and parents, and has designed the app to appeal to two different age groups: books are grouped in age ranges for 3-7 year-olds and for 8-14 year-olds. Customers can download the free app at the Storia website, and on iTunes later this month, then choose titles to place on their own personalized “book shelf.”
Those who download the app will get five free books, including two multimedia selections. The app is platform agnostic and currently available for use on PCs, with an iPad version to be released later this month, and versions for other tablets and smart phones set for the fall. The e-books should range in price from $1.95 to $20, and will retain the design of the books and make it simple for readers to turn the digital pages. As an added tool, parents will be able to track which books their kids are reading, how long they read them, and which new words have been learned.
It’s a major step forward for the company. Since e-books currently account 5% of sales for Scholastic children’s books, a fraction of the percentage many publishers report for adult books, it’s also a commitment to a digital future. Both Vice President for Business Development Jeff Mathews and Forte argue that the initial investment costs of a Kindle or Nook e-book reading device, even as the price for some models drops below $100, is a reason that few kids currently own them, adding that the typical e-book reader is not designed for young people. “The devices, the reading experience and the ecosystems are showcasing all manner of books, magazines and videos,” said Forte. “We didn’t want to do a one-size-fits-all system. We are dedicated to kids and reading.”
In a statement to Publishing Perspectives, Forte added that, “To date, the adoption of e-books for children has been slower than for adults, but we know that over time, more children and families will want to have access to quality children’s e-books. By creating Storia, an e-reading system for children that works across multiple platforms, Scholastic can offer thousands of e-books for kids of all ages on whatever device they already own and continue to encourage kids to learn and love to read.”