A Children’s Ebook Throwback: Me Books Shuns Interactivity

A small children’s digital book platform is gaining traction in the UK by going in the opposite direction of its competitors.

While other platforms, like RR Kidz, Ruckus, Amazon, Scholastic and nearly a dozen more, are offering children the interactive experiences that it is thought that they crave, UK-based Me Books is finding success doing two simple things:

1. Representing books that were born in print on the screen as faithfully as possible with no embellishments.

2. Allowing users to record their own audio readings of the books.

Since launch of the Me Books app in the UK in Oct., it has been downloaded over 110,000 times. The free app is currently among the top-ten free book apps in the iTunes store (along with iBooks, Kindle and other big-name apps); it is not available in the U.S. and Canada yet.

The company makes money through in-app purchases and while the firm wouldn’t share exact sales numbers with DBW, its managing director James Huggins said that the company is selling about 200 books a day at an average of £1.99 ($3.04).

The idea behind the company is simple and there is direct competition (A Story Before Bed, for example). Other, larger firms could easily build the technology. The barrier to entry, said Huggins, is securing the rights for the books and the new use.

Publishers in the UK have bought into the the idea. Hachette, Scholastic, Bloomsbury, Penguin and others are now selling their titles with Me Books. So far, Me Books has about 130 titles available for readers.

Me Books is working on creating more interactive digital reading experiences from scratch, but carefully and deliberately.

“There’s a difference between creating new stories from scratch digitally and adapting stories that were in the print world for the digital world,” said Huggins. “Worst case  scenario, they [more interactive elements] undermine the reading experience.”

Huggins notes that when Me Books users engage with the static book content, they relate to their device much more like they would a book and not like they would a game or a digital interactive experience.

Huggins believes that Me Books will be able to compete with Amazon, Scholastic and others with this throwback approach, attention to curating a good library of books and the ability for a personal audio library to help with community retention.

The company is backed by angel investors who poured in £750,000 when the company was only an interactive ebook studio called Made in Me. It has been self-sustaining ever since.

A spokesperson has told Digital Book World that it will launch in Canada and the U.S. in mid-May.


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