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With about 75,000 registered users — and growing by 1,000 every week — BiblioNasium is probably the biggest digital book start-up that you’ve never heard of. It’s like Goodreads for kids with tools built in for teachers and parents to monitor and encourage reading and learning.
Most of the site’s users have been signed up in classrooms by teachers who use BiblioNasium to track reading and learning. The kids who sign up can create virtual bookshelves, connect with friends, exchange recommendations and share information about books and reading. Sounds familiar? That’s because you can do all the same things on Goodreads. Except BiblioNasium, unlike Goodreads, is built specifically for kids and, more importantly, is COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) compliant. COPPA is a law that protects young children from online practices by companies that may be considered predatory, like gathering personal information.
Educators and parents can set reading challenges for kids and monitor their progress, make reading lists and check out “lexile” reports — basically data on what grade level a child is reading at.
While the site is still small with fewer than 100,000 registered users and about 100,000 monthly visitors, it has very promising engagement statistics, the start-up’s founder and CEO Marjan Ghara told me.
“The platform was specifically developed to support kids in Kindergarden through eighth grades, because no one else was addressing the need we saw in that space,” said Ghara.
Kids spend nearly eight minutes on the site per session looking at about nine pages during each visit. Over 3,000 schools from 30 countries are currently using the site and about a half-a-million books have been shelved.
Compared to Goodreads, with over 20 million users, this is small potatoes, but Ghara sees potential, citing a $26 billion annual children’s book and literacy spend in the U.S. and 36 million students to target.
Ghara founded the site in 2011 because she found it frustrating trying to find good books for her kids to read — and making sure they read them. It launched in 2012. Initially, it was self-funded but Ghara has since raised an angel round of funding.
The company plans on monetizing after building an audience.
“We currently can monetize through the sale of books, either print or ebooks,” said Ghara. “We also have started our sponsorship opportunities and expect to grow that quickly. Also the plans for a premium service is in the pipeline.”