By Dennis Abrams
LeVar Burton — Kunta Kinte on Roots, Geordi La Forge on Star Trek: The Next Generation, and the host and executive producer of PBS’s long-running reading series Reading Rainbow, is launching RRKidz, a line of interactive digital titles that will be available as apps for the iPad, as well as selected Android-driven devices. Reading Rainbow ended its 26-year run on television in August 2009.
“For 25 years Reading Rainbow gave me the opportunity to excite children about books and reading through the medium of television,” Burton announced in a statement. “With RRKidz, I will be able to bring the same spirit of discovery, imagination and adventure to today’s digitally connected kids through enhanced e-books.”
Plans are in place for RRKidz to offer “hundreds of books” through an online library to be curated by Burton, with a subscription model offering access to a digital library of 300 books at launch, with up to 45 new titles added each month. The service is likely to offer a tiered subscription model offering a choice of a monthly or annual fee. “We haven’t locked the price in yet, but we are committed to making RRKidz accessible to budget minded families,” Burton vowed.
Burton is hopeful that the combination of his name alongside that of Reading Rainbow will enable RRKidz to stand out in the crowd. “Publishers are faced with dumping their books into an App Store crowded with titles,” Burton explained to PW. “Wrapping their books in our combined brand – my name and Reading Rainbow – offers publishers an opportunity for really enhanced discoverability.”
RRKidz, which will partner with “leading publishers” to convert their print titles to digital, will feature both front and backlist titles, and hopes to give young readers the opportunity to discover ‘new’ backlist titles they may not as yet be familiar with. “Reading Rainbow taught me that a good book will always be a good book,” Burton said. “And there’s a trove of books that brick and mortar stores can’t display. The backlist is full of gold and this is an opportunity to provide generations to come with access to books that traditional publishing doesn’t always allow for.”