Sesame Street eBookstore is a “True Collaboration”

Sesame Street eBooks: The PenguinBy Guy LeCharles Gonzalez, Chief Executive Optimist, Digital Book World

First announced last December, Sesame Workshop’s new eBook initiative, Sesame Street eBooks, in partnership with Impelsys, has finally launched, featuring 121 titles and a subscription plan that’s significantly cheaper than Disney Digital Books: $39.99/year (with a launch rate of $24.99) vs. $79.95/year.

Jennifer Perry, Sesame Workshop’s Assistant VP and Editorial Director of Worldwide Publishing, expressed her excitement about the opportunity to “breathe new life into existing content” and sees it as “a perfect fit” for the 40-year-old non-profit organization’s primary mission.

“We are, first and foremost, a non-profit educational organization,” she explained. “Sesame Street eBooks is about being where children are, offering literacy-based educational experiences via our evergreen content. We’ll be testing throughout the summer to see which formats and characters our subscribers find the most appealing, and we’ll be adding new eBooks on at least a quarterly basis.”

The eBooks will initially be available only to US-based subscribers, and only via subscription, not a la carte, out of respect for their 25+ print publishing partners. “We are respectful of, and committed to our print publishers.” Perry also noted that they are working on plans to make their eBooks accessible to schools and libraries, though no deals are ready to be announced.

The relationship with Impelsys — which has “a traditional licensing agreement”, making them both the technology provider and the publisher — was a “true collaboration,” built from scratch on their iPublishCentral platform (“we didn’t have to retrofit ideas”), and was made possible by Sesame’s savvy approach to digital rights.

“We license formats, not content,” said Perry. “We’ve always retained e-rights.”

From the press release:

Sesame Street eBooksSesame Workshop, the non-profit organization that produces Sesame Street, and Impelsys, launched today a new online Sesame Street eBookstore at Readers can subscribe with Impelsys to get unlimited access to a library of more than 100 Sesame Street eBooks for an annual subscription price of $39.99.  A special introductory subscription price of $24.99 is being offered to subscribers through July 4, 2010.

Managed by Impelsys, the store features an eBooks collection including a wide range of fun and educationally rich Sesame Street titles such as Elmo’s ABC Book, Abby in Wonderland, and Grover’s Guide to Good Eating. Titles are offered in a variety of formats: eBooks allow a child to read along at their own pace; audio eBooks contain narration, sound effects, and music; animated eBooks bring beloved Sesame Street characters and stories to life in full-color animation; and interactive eBooks invite children to play along and learn.

Other features include an auto-play option that turns the pages for the reader and text highlighting that visually reinforces the narration in audio eBooks. The site also provides the option of viewing in Kids Mode, which simplifies the navigation for a child by displaying only the available books while removing parent tips and menus.

Details of the licensing agreement aren’t public, but Impelsys will be responsible for the marketing of the Sesame Street eBook program, while Sesame Workshop will continue to feature a rotating selection of five free eBooks on their main site.

4 thoughts on “Sesame Street eBookstore is a “True Collaboration”

  1. Jim Fallone

    This is a great example of the O’Reilly Safari model applied to a trade children’s property and Children’s Television Workshop is a great example of why publishers need to be taking inventory of their assets and exploring new models of content creation such as content farming. CTW has realized that there is no more barrier between the content holder and the consumer if you can drive audience traffic. If you are a publisher who hasn’t been playing along CTW can either be a metaphor for your authors or they can be a model to emulate – depending on where you are on your digital road map.

  2. Sean R Haugh

    Good product from a great brand – safe entry into a yet unproven market, excited to see where they go from here if it is a success.

    Also – when comparing one product to another (i.e. Disney Digital Books) it is wise to be somewhat accurate in your comparison. Disney Digital Books is more expensive but they widely promote the fact that their library includes over 600 books as well as a great deal more features than what Sesame Street (currently) offers. A straight price-to-price comparison is incorrect.

    1. Guy LeCharles Gonzalez Post author

      Valid point, Sean, though I wonder at what point the number of books available has no effect on the perception of the subscription price? Do you have any data on the number of subscribers you’ve attracted vs. sales of your standalone apps that you’d be willing to share?

      1. Jim Fallone

        What is so interesting about this model is it treats digital books more accurately as broadcast data that is viewed on screen just like a TV show. These sites are measured by hours viewed not units downloaded. Number of books available is less important than replay value and time logged in. 2 complex interactive titles may have more value than 10 simple “read aloud” titles. They act more like TV networks than digital bookstores.

        Once you have an audience built you will want/need to keep retain them as long as you can and over time the user develops more sophisticated expectations of content complexity and functionality. The pressure grows to increase features until the line blurs to whether content is book, game or movie. Another other option is to begin to bring on other media interpretations of the brand creating a siloed trans media site. Does this mean licensors pull back rights from third party holders or do they bring them into the site under a distribution model?

        As publishers evaluate how they are exploiting their content digitally I think we will see a lot more of this type of things both with iconic properties and with certain genres. If you are a publisher who has major brands or publish a significant amount of titles into mystery, horror, sci fi, or romance categories it would not be a bad idea to start checking out the sites of the top 100 licensing companies and monitor what they are doing with their properties. You may find your licensor is competing with you for the same digital shelf space.



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