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Digital books speak to real-world readers

Interactive applications can't be too immersive these days. And in an effort to bring kids further into the worlds depicted in their favorite books, New York-based digital firm (212)media created a beta version of digital edu-tainment product Speakaboos that it's prepping for a full launch later this year.
March 27, 2009

Interactive applications can’t be too immersive these days. And in an effort to bring kids further into the worlds depicted in their favorite books, New York-based digital firm [212]media created a beta version of digital edu-tainment product Speakaboos that it’s prepping for a full launch later this year.

Principal Neal Shenoy describes Speakaboos as an immersive reading experience targeting kids up to age eight. Companion website Speakaboos.com houses a selection of downloadable packages (US$8.99 apiece) themed around individual titles that include a digital book – complete with animation, music and sound effects, where pages get flipped as a narrator reads the story aloud – games that might test memory, reading comprehension and vocabulary, themed e-cards to send to family and friends, print-outs and arts & crafts.

More than 90% of Speakaboos narrators are celebrities (yes, even Kevin Bacon has taken a turn), which is proving a popular

feature with parents. The site also includes free streaming songs and nursery rhymes performed by pop artists (US$0.99 to download). At press time, Nick Cannon’s hip-hop version of ‘Old MacDonald Had a Farm’ was the site’s most-streamed file. The plan is to continue to recruit more celebs as the library grows.

With 60 Speakaboos packages in the beta phase, Shenoy is working with major publishers to add more titles and is aiming to roll out with 200. He’s also looking at creating digital versions of Spanish stories and those written in other languages to appeal to consumers worldwide. Currently, the library consists of a mix of public domain tales and licensed content. Arthur and Curious George are already on-board, so [212]media is definitely looking to chat with more IP owners.

In the meantime, the company is hoping to form more relationships with parent/teacher organizations to push its educational content out. Moving Speakaboos onto other media platforms such as mobile, cable and VOD is also under consideration, and Shenoy is betting the digital format will drive sales of Speakaboos CD-ROMs, which are launching at Walmarts State-side this quarter.

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