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Reading enters a new dimension with edgy book format innovations

As more and more licensors look to expand their publishing programs, two new formats that blur the line between book and screen - Toy Quest's Come to Life video books and the Read With Me DVD system from Fisher-Price and Scholastic - are ramping up to roll out this fall.
May 1, 2005

As more and more licensors look to expand their publishing programs, two new formats that blur the line between book and screen – Toy Quest’s Come to Life video books and the Read With Me DVD system from Fisher-Price and Scholastic – are ramping up to roll out this fall.

When L.A.-based Toy Quest started investigating its novelty book options in 2004, the market seemed to be in a bit of a creative rut. Since the advent of sound books two or more decades ago, there hadn’t really been much additional innovation, says product manager Tara Cortner. Looking to shake things up, Toy Quest began exploring the logistics of modernizing the storybook experience with video components.

On the surface, the company’s Come to Life video books (SRP US$9.99) look like traditional board books for toddlers and preschoolers, but they house black-and-white LCD screens that play short bitmap clips when kids press the right buttons. There are several animated sequences programmed for each page, and they play at random each time the book is read, so there’s the potential for hundreds of unique stories.

Toy Quest is coming out of the gate with six proprietary titles that each have a different focus – boy, girl, unisex, ABCs, counting and socialization skills. But Cortner’s team is also actively hunting for preschool entertainment licenses to apply to the new format.

The toyco has also created a variety of POP strategies that traditional retailers and alternative channels such as drug stores can use to maximize the books’ presence in their stores. Along with endcap-friendly displays and packaging with try-me features, there are also stand-alone kits that don’t require fixed shelf space.

Likewise, Fisher-Price and Scholastic have a versatile merchandising strategy in mind for their Read With Me system, which turns any DVD player into an interactive book-reading device. The products will be distributed in dedicated Fisher-Price sections of mass toy aisles, and they’ll also be pushed through Scholastic’s national school book club and book fair programs.

Given that the kids CD-ROM market has been losing value by 20% annually for the past few years, Scholastic was looking for a new platform to support its book-based content. At the same time, Fisher-Price Friends senior VP and GM Kevin Curran was casting about for an ELA device that emphasized vocabulary building and reading comprehension, unlike the ‘learn to read’ systems already on the market. The two companies got together to create Read With Me, which consumers should find very accessible since it interacts with a device owned by roughly 95% of U.S. homes with kids ages three to 14.

The Read With Me starter kit (SRP US$39.99) comes with a DVD controller that’s compatible with just about any DVD player and one book in DVD format. Each disk (SRP US$14.99) contains more than 100 story questions and activities, animating the original book’s illustrations. The DVDs also run in four modes: Read to Me (the story is passively read to the child); My Turn to Read (the child reads the story and controls the turning of ‘the page’); Read and Play (interrupts the book’s flow to ask the child questions about the story); and Story Games (contains two learning games based on the story).

Nine DVD books are slated for the fall launch, with Scholastic drawing from its own library as well as licensing classics such as Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham and Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are. Curran says he’s looking to add another four to six titles in 2006, and licenses may play into this goal.

About The Author
Lana Castleman is the Editor & Content Director of Kidscreen and oversees all content for Kidscreen magazine, kidscreen.com and related kidscreen events. lcastleman@brunico.com

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