In Major Digitization Effort, Scholastic Launches E-Reading App For Kids

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The kids’ e-book market is still nascent, with e-books making up just about three percent of children’s book sales. That could change now that Scholastic, the world’s largest children’s book publishers, is digitizing much of its list and releasing an e-reading app, “Storia,” that includes a large e-bookstore and lets kids read e-books based on their reading level.

Storia is in beta now and available for Windows PC through the website; an iPad version is coming later this month. The app itself is free and comes with five free e-books. A store contains over 1,000 other children’s e-books—many available in digital format for the first time—that can be sorted by grade level, reading level, age and character/series.

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When the app officially launches in the fall, it will contain over 2,000 titles, reports the AP, “that can be bought directly from the publisher or from retailers.” (Scholastic’s entire list of books in print is between 5,000 and 6,000 titles, the company says.) The special “enriched” app versions of the books can only be read through the Storia app, but many unenriched e-book versions will also be available for other devices.

Some of the titles—151 in the store now—are “enriched e-books,” which “which use word games, story interactions, and animation to deeply draw your young reader in, further developing confidence and critical thinking skills.” Parents can also track their kids’ process through the books, and the app can store multiple virtual bookshelves for children in one family.

E-books currently represent about five percent of Scholastic’s children’s book sales, the company told the AP, while at least 20 percent of the adult market is digital. E-readers are also expensive—though more are being passed down to children when their parents upgrade—and hard for young children to use. When the Storia app officially launches this fall, it will be available for Mac, iPhone and Android smartphone and tablet.

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Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS) and Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) are also working to enhance their e-book offerings for kids. “We are just at the dawn of digital for kids’ books,” Kevin O’Conner, B&N’s Nook Kids director of business development and content acquisitions, said at the Publishers Launch conference in January. The company’s Nook Kids storefront contains 1,626 titles.

Amazon Publishing recently bought Marshall Cavendish’s line of 450 children’s books, which it will sell in print and digital versions, but it’s not stopping there: The company sees digital as “a chance to connect a terrific group of authors and illustrators with more readers,” Amazon Publishing VP Jeff Belle said, and the “Children’s Books for Kindle Fire” section of the storecontains 981 titles—a figure that has more than doubled since December.

Republished with permission from paidContent, which writes about the transformation of the media-and-entertainment industries in the digital era, with a focus on emerging-business models and technologies.

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