Nosy Crow apps in the Interactive Kids Stories section of the App Store.
The App Store can be a fairly baffling place to navigate – not just for consumers, but also for developers like us, too. The best description I’ve heard is that it’s like “the world’s biggest shop, with the world’s smallest shop window”, which gets to the heart of the challenge rather neatly: there is a vast sea of content being squashed into a bathtub. How can any one app claim enough space and attention?
As any developer will tell you, the key to an app’s success is its visibility on the Store: its position in the charts, the promotional slots it receives from Apple (which can’t be bought – only earned on merit), and – most prized of all – a place on the front page. We’ve always been proud of how our apps have fared on the Store (and we’re incredibly grateful for the support they get from Apple), though, like any proud parent, we always want more for them.
I came across this interesting post on the VentureBeat website last week, which speculated on how the App Store’s ranking algorithm works. As the author notes, the exact formula isn’t public information, but an educated guess is that it weighs several discrete criteria: the number of downloads an app has received in the short and medium term, sales, engagement (that is, the number of times an app is actually used), and lastly, reviews and ratings.
And this is all a roundabout way of saying that reviews are incredibly important to us! In a place as crowded as the App Store, we are truly dependent on people who like our apps spreading the word. So if you’ve enjoyed a Nosy Crow app recently, we’d be incredibly grateful if you’d consider leaving a review and rating on the Store – it makes all the difference.
We’re so proud of this app – we think it’s our best one yet. It blurs the distinction between story and game more than ever before to create a completely new kind of reading experience for children: Jack and the Beanstalk is where on-screen gaming and reading meet.
Conceived and created with reading for pleasure at its heart, Jack and the Beanstalk rewards the reader’s success with more story, and encourages repeat play with endless variety. You can play games in different rooms of the giant’s castle, and collect keys to unlock more of the story – and every so often, Jack meets the sleeping giant, and your success (or failure) at collecting his treasure determines the outcome of the whole story.
It’s a brilliant re-telling of the story that contains all the familiar elements that everyone knows and love – along with lots of imaginative new features.
Jack and his mum have to sell their only cow (and you can help get Daisy ready for the market by feeding her, cleaning her, and putting her bell on):
But on the way to the market Jack meets a strange-looking man who offers to swap Daisy for some magic beans (you can count the beans into Jack’s backpack):
The beans grow into a giant beanstalk (which naturally, you can climb):
And at the top of the beanstalk is a rather grand-looking castle:
And inside the castle is where the fun REALLY starts. We’ve created an exciting, open environment to explore: find the right key to open nine different doors in the giant’s castle, each with unique games and characters behind them. Here’s what the castle hallway looks like:
And here’s just one of the nine rooms inside – can you help Jack free the dragon from its cell?
But be careful you don’t wake up the giant…
He’ll chase you out of the castle and back down the beanstalk – and the ending of the story will change, depending on how many of the games inside the castle you’ve completed!
The app uses a totally non-linear narrative – you can work your way through the castle in a different order every time (and jump to your favourite scenes using the castle map):
We’ve made the app with an emphasis on reading for pleasure that we think will be especially good at encouraging reluctant readers (and reluctant boy readers in particular) who love on-screen gaming to participate in a reading experience.
As with our other fairy tale apps, there’s rich, detailed artwork, animation, original music, sound effects, voice work and interactivity that will keep young children engaged every time they re-visit the app.
We know you’ll love it. And if you do buy Jack and the Beanstalk, please do consider leaving a review on the App Store – it really makes a big difference! You can also sign up to our apps mailing list here, and we’ll keep you up to date with all our new apps and offers.
Rather than attempt to pull together a blow-by-blow account of the evening, I thought that it might be interesting just to share verbatim soundbites from each of the speakers.
“We’re quite happy to move on without [publishers], but we’d like you to catch up.”
He told a story about going to the Bologna Book Fair a couple of years ago, and, at the end of the conference before the fair (at which I spoke, actually) an Italian publisher had rounded off the conference by saying that apps were a waste of money. The publisher had invested 50,000 Euros. He said they had “failed to make a good product; failed to understand their audience; and failed to tell their audience about the app they’d made”.
“The app market wants nearly everything for nearly nothing.”
“You can have an amazing reading experience with a paperback.”
“You can’t immediately think that people who buy books will buy apps.”
Stuart emphasised how young the app market was and how much opportunity for experimentation and new kinds of creativity lay ahead, predicting that we’ll see a generation of children who will choose to tell their stories through websites, apps and games, saying he’d visited a school where primary school children were learning basic coding using Hopscotch.
“Rather than asking how can we take a book and turn it into an app, how do we tell a story in a new way? Can an app deliver a story itself differently, not deliver a story and some additional stuff round the story. The [new] starting point will hopefully be storytelling, conceived as an app from the beginning: it’s not over yet.”
He said that children’s apps were a particular “melting pot” involving story and games, and he cited Rovio and Nosy Crow as developers blurring the story/game line.
Stuart said that he saw “children as creators” as an important trend in apps, citing Me Books as an example of this, and suggesting that Julia Donaldson, who opposes app versions of her books, might find an app that allowed children to retell the Gruffalo story themselves more interesting.
Stuart said that it just a question of whether apps were cannibalising publisher’s content. Outside the industry, the fear was that apps were cannibalising reading.
“Reviews don’t generate as many downloads as App Store promotion, which doesn’t generate as many downloads as word of mouth.”
“It’s maybe better to talk to 50 mum bloggers than to talk to 3 journalists.”
“400,000 of Tesco’s Hudl tablets were sold in the run-up to Christmas.”
Stuart said that this was the first Christmas he’d heard parents say they were planning to by tablets not for the family to share, but specifically for their children.
Stuart spoke about the following apps which were new kinds of storytelling: Blackbar; Papers, Please; Papa Sangre 2; Device 6.
He also spoke about examples of online storytelling such as Black Crown.
He touched on opportunities for social reading, asking what the book equivalent of Rap Genius would look like.
“Everyone – in film, in music, in books – wants to know what the future is of the industry they’re in… The future of the book is… the book.”
“It all starts with the story. Even marketing. Marketing is the story of the story.”
“An app is not a broadcast channel.”
“Apps end up in the marketing budget because that’s where you put the things that don’t make any money.”
“You see a lot of, ‘there’ll be a new kind of reading experience’, but there are no different kinds of reading experience. I see people running into the space saying they will redefine the book and floundering.”
“Ever since we started, we have been trying to solve the commercial riddle of the [app] space.”
“In many cases, publishers are quite right to be cautious about investing in the app space.”
“Initially, Made In Me was a content proposition, but now Made In Me sees itself as a channel: apps not as content but as a route to a customer.”
“The app space will be seized upon for distribution and marketing rather than for content development.”
He lamented the vagueness of the term “app”: “A book is a format – you know what to expect. An app is not a format – you don’t know when you download an app how it might work. From one app to another, it’s hard to learn the rules. We need to educate the market with consistent experiences.” This is why, I guess, each Me Book works the same way as every other Me Book.
“When it comes to cannibalisation, it isn’t about [a battle of] formats, it’s more a question of competition for their time.”
James recounted that when he was playing at making a story with his seven year-old daughter, rather than writing a back cover blurb, she wrote an app description, and gave it five stars, so his daughter is part of a generation who might, as Stuart suggests, tell stories differently, perhaps using apps technology, or a successor of apps technology.
James acknowledged that analysts talk about the app space favouring casual gaming rather than creative content, but, said, that though there were, of course, high profile examples talking about the very high-profile success of some games, points out that “people forget about the commercial mortality rate of games” – i.e. how few of the ones thrown at the wall actually stick.
On marketing apps, he says, “The more we have tried to understand the app space, the more we see that it is similar to print”.
He spoke about the way that, in the experience of Made In Me, App Store promotion worked, saying that it was “tap-on, tap-off, with no echoing effect”, so the sales spike was sharp and short.
Quoted a McGraw Hill executive at the Digital Book World conference in New York this month quoting a teacher: “My school has bought an iPad for every pupil. What am I expected to do wth it?”
“The app, the iPad, does things that the book can’t do.”
Touch Press hadn’t made an Android version of Disney Animated “because the marketplace and the technical capability aren’t there”.
“Apple keeps all the customer information, so that make it hard to understand who the audience is.”
I know that this blog post is a bit fragmented, but I thought that there were some really well-expressed nuggets here. I don’t agree with all of them by any means, but I found them provocative and interesting and useful, even if just to clarify my own thinking. I hope you do too.
This accolade celebrates the most remarkable, innovative, and entertaining apps of 2013 – and Little Red Riding Hood has been recognised as one of five Innovative Kids Apps for the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India and Turkey.
“Another fairytale, beautifully realised by British publisher Nosy Crow, which has done similar tricks for Cinderella and The Three Little Pigs. The twist here is that children decide what items the heroine picks up en route to grandma’s to help her defeat the wolf.”
It’s been a remarkable year for Little Red Riding Hood, and this is a truly wonderful way to end 2013. And if, somehow, after MONTHS of reading about it on this blog, you’ve still not tried the app, you can watch the trailer below:
A little while ago we we wrote about iOS 7, the new mobile operating system for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, and one of its most important (for us) new features: a Kids’ Category on the App Store.
iOS 7 – and the Kids’ Category – launched last week, and we were absolutely overwhelmed by the level of support for Nosy Crow.
The picture at the top of this post shows a page of promoted Interactive Kids Stories from the US App Store (you can visit the page here, if you have a US iTunes account) – Apple’s selection of the best storybook apps for children. And of the 38 apps listed, TEN (count ‘em!) are by Nosy Crow – over a quarter! We think this is pretty good: we’ve only made eleven apps in total, and the only one missing… isn’t a story app.
We’re also one of the very, very few developers (the others are the likes of Disney) to have our own, branded page on the App Store, dedicated exclusively to our apps. Here’s a look at ours (with a wonderful, Nosy Crow-red background):
And elsewhere our apps are listed under categories including Best Apps for Ages 5 & Under, Best Apps for Ages 6 – 8, Learning Made Fun, Games for Kids, and more.
We’re truly amazed by all this: we really believe in each of our apps as innovative, engaging, extraordinary products, but we’re also a tiny, independent publisher (with fewer than a dozen apps to our name) and so to receive this degree of support from Apple is incredibly encouraging. It feels like we’re punching above our weight – and doing something right!
Next month will be the App Store’s fifth birthday – and on Monday, our Little Red Riding Hood app played a very small part in the celebrations!
Our eagle-eyed publishing co-ordinator Mary has just spotted that the icon for Little Red Riding Hood was featured in a collage of apps which formed a giant number five in a slide during Apple CEO Tim Cook’s speech at the World Wide Developer Conference on Monday. You can see it above – Little Red Riding Hood is on the right hand side, just above the word “years”. Here it is closer-up (apologies for the low-resolution):
We’re absolutely thrilled by the recognition – out of over a million app developers now making content for the iPad and iPhone, it’s wonderful to see Little Red Riding Hood, and the work of small, independent publishers like us, acknowledged in this (very exciting!) way.
If you’re interested, you can watch Tim Cook’s entire speech online here. And here’s the trailer for Little Red Riding Hood:
The Guardian have given the app a fantastic 5-star review. Here’s some of what they have to say:
“One of the best examples yet of how to do it right … with beautifully-crafted scenes and characters, and careful use of interactivity and even non-linear storytelling to encourage early reading skills … In short, Little Red Riding Hood is rather marvellous: a children’s book-app that impresses with its technical chops, but more importantly with its firm focus on storytelling and reading skills.”
The app’s had some incredible support on the App Store. It’s an Editor’s Choice app for the whole US iPhone App Store (you can see the banner at the top of this post), and it’s also on the front page of iTunes for the US Store. Not just the App Store. iTunes. It’s also an Editor’s Choice app for the Books and Education categories of the US Store, an Editor’s Choice app for the Education category in the UK, the #1 New and Noteworthy app for the whole UK App Store, and as of this morning, is the #1 Paid iPad Book App for the UK!
Needless to say, we’ve never had a response like this before.
And we’d like to celebrate! So first of all, here’s the next of our character films, featuring Little Red Riding Hood’s long-suffering Grandma – I wonder what she thinks happened in the story?
And we also have a copy of the app to giveaway! You can win a copy of Little Red Riding Hood by RT-ing this tweet – we’ll pick a winner at random at the end of the day!
If you’ve not yet seen the app, you can find out more about it here – or buy it on the App Store for $4.99/ £2.99 here.
Thank you to everyone who’s written to us on Facebook and Twitter – it’s fantastic to hear that so many of you are enjoying Little Red Riding Hood.
We have some good news for teachers and ICT co-ordinators – we’re now enrolled in Apple’s Volume Purchase Programme, which means that schools can buy our apps at a 50% discount (in quantities of 20 or more). In order to qualify, schools need to designate someone as their Programme Manager, who can then sign up here.
We’ve already received lots of great feedback from educational specialists for a number of our apps (you can read some of it on the Media Kit page for Rounds: Franklin Frog, under ‘Using our Apps for Teaching and Therapy’) and we’ve written about using our apps in schools on the blog before – we hope this programme means that schools can use our apps more widely than ever. In a review of Franklin Frog, the Teaching Appz website gave some great suggestions for possible classroom uses for the app:
✓ Use the app as part of Science lessons to help children learn about frogs and life cycles.
✓ Read and share the story together by connecting the device to a projector. Listen to the audio narration or challenge children to narrate the story themselves using expression.
✓ The illustrations all use circles or divisions of circles. Could your pupils create a picture using a similar style?
✓ Challenge children to write their own story about the life cycle of a different animal.
And here’s Kindergarten teacher Chris Crowell with Warren Buckleitner, editor for Children’s Technology Review, using Rounds: Franklin Frog:
You can find out more about the Volume Purchase Programme here (and here if you’re in the US) – and if you have any questions about using our apps in schools, or want to share your experience of doing so, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!
Rounds: Franklin Frog is currently #1 in the New and Noteworthy section of the App Store in the UK and in the top 20 of the same category in the US. The visibility that those positions provide are absolutely essential in creating momentum for an app, so we’re thrilled (Rounds is also ranked #2 in the Paid Book Apps chart in the UK and #6 in the US).
There are still a few more hours remaining during which the app will be on sale at the special introductory sale price of 69p/ 99c – you can find it on the store here.
Moira Butterfield recently wrote a blog post about the “battle” between print and on-screen reading (something to which we are not strangers). She says, “I believe there could be more innovative computer/picture book mixes out there to discover, and I want publishers to call on us authors for ideas, not just on computer whizzes. I think we should get into the mix and offer our creativity.”
I haven’t spoken to Moira before writing this blog post, but, on the basis of this blog she doesn’t seem hugely excited about the apps she’s seen (perhaps she doesn’t know ours!): “We already have apps in which picture books are read out loud and pictures change when children touch the screen.” She seems to be suggesting something beyond/other than apps when she refers to “online”. She says, “I hope publishers will ask authors to help them with creative ideas for stretching their books to make wonderful new material online.”
So let’s deal with that first. A key reason that apps (and ebooks, but that’s a different subject) are attractive to publishers is that people are willing to pay for them. They are not always willing to pay a huge amount, and it’s certainly the case in our experience that you need to deliver more content more cheaply than you would in print. However, there’s evidence that people’s willingness to pay is increasing: Carly Schuler’s report for the Joan Gantz Cooney centre on children’s educational apps suggested that the average price of children’s educational apps had risen by a dollar between 2009 and 2011… and, as that represented a move from $1.13 to $2.14, that’s an 88% price increase.
By contrast, it’s proved hard for publishers to get readers to pay for online content (outside business, educational, scientific, technical and medical publishing – I am talking about “trade publishing”, and specifically children’s publishing, throughout this blog post). It will be interesting to see if initiatives, interestingly not taken by publishers themselves, like Magic Town which are based on reading and books, take off in the way that other kinds of virtual worlds like Moshi Monsters have taken off.
But maybe I am misunderstanding Moira. Maybe she is saying that she wants publishers to reach out to authors to create apps.
We’d love to find authors who are interested in working on apps.
But writing a highly interactive, multimedia children’s app that is a satisfying reading experience is not the same as writing a picture book. Here are some ways in which, in our experience, writing a children’s story app is different:
Creating an app is a highly collaborative process. More, perhaps, like writing a film-script than writing a book. Of course, picture book authors are used to being edited, but writing something truly interactive which accommodates other media does require a different level of flexibility and team-playing. Our apps are highly interactive and include illustration, animation, voice audio and music: the text is, just by virtue of the arthmetic a smaller part of that mix than it is in a picture book… which is not to say that it’s not a hugely important part of the mix.
Creating an app is a technical process. Moira writes about “teccies” and “computer whizzes”, and I think that authors who are interested in working into new media need to get to know “teccies” and “computer whizzes” and understand their kind of creativity, their sensitivities and what they regard as excellent in their fields. That’s not to say that authors need to come to publishers with a finished, coded app (we wouldn’t want that, for example: we have our own technical team, and we want to use code we’ve created), I do think that having some understanding of what does into animation and coding is helpful.
Creating an app is a new process. Authors who write picture books know their genre inside-out, and can draw on a huge experience of reading picture books themselves and, usually, of reading picture books to children. In August 2009 Winged Chariot launched Europe’s first picture book app (you can read about it here and elsewhere), so we’re looking at a genre that is just three years old. We began work on apps that we expected would be used on a screen bigger than the one we had available several months before the launch of the iPad, which turned out to be the name of the device we’d been expecting, in May 2010. So apps are new, and they’re developing fast. I think that authors who are interested in writing in this space need to keep up with developments, immerse themselves in this world and get to know the best of the apps that are out there, and, even better, spend time with children who are reading those apps to see how they use the screen and what they expect from it.
Apps are voracious: in our experience, they need more content than a picture book aimed at the same age-group. Writing a picture-book length text isn’t going to provide enough text for an app. Which is not to say that you can have even as much text on a screen at any one time as you can have on a printed page.
Apps are non-linear, or, at least, not completely linear: in our experience, understanding the balance of narrative story-telling and other non-linear elements is important.
The bottom line is that we get a lot of submissions of picture book texts that are sent into us as something that “would make a good app”. Often this is on the basis of just a couple of suggestions of interactivity: “when you touch the sky, the stars twinkle”, for example.
But, in our view, that’s just not enough.
In fact, we’ve written the texts for all of the apps we’ve published to date.
But that’s about to change. Our next app, Rounds: Franklin Frog, from which you can see an illustration at the top of this post, is written by an “outside author”: a husband-and-wife author-illustrator team came up with the concept, wrote the script and did the illustration. Even then, I think that Emma, who wrote the script, would say that there was a fair amount of team-work and back-and-forth involved in hammering out the final text. And, once we’d done that, there were final tweaks to be made in the recording studio: we use children’s voices and there were a couple of things that our narrator, Connie, just couldn’t say with the level of expression and fluency that we needed… so we changed them on the hoof. We kept the sense, and stayed true to the author’s intention, but we changed a word, or word-order, or the rhythm, to create something that sounded right, rather than read right.
We’ve done it once, and you’ll be able to see the results in a couple of weeks. We are more than willing to do it again. So, come on, authors: send us your excellent, thought-through concepts, with your vision of the multimedia and interactive elements that could be added to your brilliant text. We want to keep producing best-in-class apps, and we want to hear from you if you think you can work with us to do that.
He argues that some things are “bought” – they’re there, and consumers find them because they meet a need without the seller soliciting the sale, and others are “sold” – no sale happens unless the seller solicits the sale.
I’ve just read the piece, and don’t have huge amounts of time to think it over in relation to books and apps (I am in Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronic’s Show, the Kids @ Play summit and to pick up the KAPi award for best ebook for our Cinderella app). The examples that Seth Godin gives are at the opposite ends of a spectrum, and I don’t really think that the things that we acquire can be put into boxes of “bought” and “sold”: instead, there’s a kind of continuum of push and pull, of desire and need, of opportunity and quest.
And I think that sometimes – as in the example of the Charles Dickens biography and War Horse below – something other than, or in addition to, the seller is “soliciting” or at least prompting the sale.
There’s also, in the case of books and apps, a question of who “the seller” is. Is it the publisher? Is it the retailer? It is, perhaps, the author or creator in some cases?
But it seems to me that books are both “bought” and “sold”. If I go into Hudson News or WHS in a station or an airport before a journey, and buy a book that I have never heard of before, that book has essentially been “bought”. Yes, the fact that it’s on a table rather than a shelf, or face out on a shelf, may make me more likely to notice it. Yesterday, I did just that. I bought a copy of Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout (so far, so American and good). Perhaps the “Winner of the Pullitzer Prize” badge was part of a “sell”, and, I suppose, the cover, the blurb and the review sources suggested it would be a particular kind of woman-skewed, middle-brow read that might work for me when I was a bit jet-lagged and on a plane that I knew already would be as uncomfortable and rammed as only an American Airlines (gosh, but I hate that airline) flight can be.
But when I acquired the Claire Tomalin biography of Charles Dickens (I went on to write about it here) from Amazon, I didn’t stumble upon it. That book had been “sold” to me by review coverage combined, of course, with the event of the bi-centenary of Dickens’ birth, which meant that the subject was very zeitgeisty.
I think the fact that the bricks and mortar bookshop example was an example of a book that I “bought” and the online bookshop example was an example of a book that I was “sold” is indicative of a shift that books are going through now between from “bought” to being “sold”.
At the moment, I still think most, but not all, of course, children’s books are “bought”. Of course, there are exceptions: the film of War Horse is currently “selling” War Horse.
I think that, as publishers, we need to get better at “selling” books.
It’s hard to generalise about apps. I think that, in our case, many of our apps have been “sold”, in that people have gone onto the app store looking for them because they’ve seen a great review, or read about us in a paper or magazine, or connect with us on Twitter or Facebook (and social media is, of course, one of the ways that publishers could get better at selling books too), or heard about the app from someone they know.
However, I also think that some of our apps have been “bought”, by people finding them on the app store. At the moment, one of the great challenges of the Apple App Store is how to find good apps, but being App of the Week, or being on the front page of the store or a section of the store, or showing up well in rankings hugely increases the chances of being found by consumers.
Unlike much bookshop positioning (whether online or bricks-and-mortar), you can’t pay for positioning in the Apple App Store. Apple chooses the apps it promotes. All we can do is make sure our apps are as good as they can possibly be. Oh, and it would probably help if you voted for them in the Best App Ever Awards!
I am still thinking about this, so this is a far from definitive piece of writing, but I’d be interested to know your views.
So, do you feel books are bought or sold? What’s your own experience? Is it different from what you think other people’s experience is?
Do you feel apps are bought or sold? What’s your own experience, if you’re an app buyer? Is it different from what you think other people’s experience is?
2011 was Nosy Crow’s first year of publishing. We published our first book in January.
It’s been an incredibly busy and full year, and I find it hard to sort through the events and impressions of the past twelve months to write anything coherent.
But here goes…
The books and apps we published… and signed up
In 2011, we published 23 books for children aged 0 to 14. 8 were board books. 7 were picture books. 8 were fiction titles for children aged 6 to 14. Here they are in reverse publication order finishing, at the time of writing but this will update as publication dates pass, in December 2011.
We signed up a further 38 books and 8 apps for 2012, and already have projects scheduled for publication in 2013 and beyond. You can already find out about some of the forthcoming books (in publication order starting, at the time of writing but this will update as publication dates pass, in January 2012) and about some of the apps.
Selling at home and abroad
Working with Bounce, we had books sold and promoted in a huge range of UK sales outlets from independent booksellers through bookshop chains and online book retailers to supermarkets and toy shops.
We sold rights to books in the following languages: French, German, Dutch, Italian, Spanish, Catalan, Portuguese, Danish, Swedish, Finnish, Polish, Hebrew, Chinese, Norwegian, Greek and Korean.
Nosy Crow authors on the road
Nosy Crow authors were at numerous literary festivals, including Hay, Edinburgh, Bath and Cheltenham, and staged countless events in schools, libraries and bookshops.
Nosy Crow on the move
We moved offices from our second office in Lambeth to our third office in Southwark (it’s always cheaper south of the river) as our staff grew from 8 to January 2012’s 19, including part-time people and “attached freelancers”. We’ve lost members of staff too (which is a real rite of passage). Two were only with us on a temporary basis and went on to roles that they had planned before they joined us, but Deb Gaffin has just left us to take on a marketing and partnership strategy role at Mindshapes. We are very grateful to her for helping us shape our first apps and the thinking behind them. Andi Silverman Meyer who has known Deb since they were at school together, and who has been fantastic at getting us US coverage for our apps, is joining Mindshapes too.
Spreading the word
We have reached a lot of people with Nosy Crow news of various kinds.
Nosy Crow as a company or Nosy Crow books or apps have been in the Wall Street Journal, The Chicago Tribune, USA Today, The Gadgetwise Blog of The New York Times, Wired Magazine, The Daily Mail, The Times, The Guardian, The Sunday Times, The Sunday Telegraph, The Independent, The Scotsman, Prima, Junior, Good Housekeeping, Kirkus, School Library Journal, The Melbourne Age, The Australian, The Huffington Post and many great children’s book, parenting, technology and app blogs. We’ve had terrific coverage in trade press and websites including Publisher’s Weekly, The Bookseller, FutureBook, BookBrunch and The Literary Platform. The quickest look at the first few pages of a Google search result for Nosy Crow gives a sense of the range of coverage – and, where it’s third-party coverage, how positive it’s been. We’ve had more than our fair share of TV and radio coverage too, and coverage, through our Gallimard and Carlsen links in Figaro, Marie Claire and Buchreport.
It would be ridiculous to pretend it was a year without disappointments or irritations. The much-investigated drainy smell in the bathrooms at 10a Lant Street continues to baffle. The many cakes we make and eat continue to contain a lot of calories. Camilla had her bag stolen and we had to have all the office locks changed. There are one or two important UK retailers who still haven’t stocked our books. There are several countries to which we’d hoped to sell rights but haven’t yet managed to do so – Japan for example, but there are good reasons for that. We didn’t always (though we did generally) agree what books we wanted to publish and how much we wanted to publish them. We offered for some books that we didn’t manage to buy, a couple of which I still feel sad about. One or two books (and I mean “one or two”: our strike rate has been good) didn’t sell quite as well as we thought they would. We had to cancel a couple of projects because they just weren’t working out the way that we’d planned.
But it’s been a very good year.
Whatever we achieved in this first year, we did it in partnership with our many authors and illustrators, new and established, and with other artistic collaborators, such as composers, audio experts and paper engineers. Without them, we have nothing to publish. We threw a party to say thank you. You can see the pictures at the top of our Facebook page.
Our author party in The Crow’s Nest in Lant Street a few weeks ago
And whatever we’ve achieved in this first year, we did it thanks to the support of publishers abroad; booksellers of many kinds; librarians; reviewers; bloggers; literacy organisations; literary and illustrators agents; printers and print managers; talented freelancers; and, of course, the parents and grandparents, uncles, aunts, friends, teachers and librarians who have bought and read our books and apps to, with and for children.
I hadn’t thought to compare the books, but rather than think about their relative merits as biographies (they’re both very good, both highly-readable, both thorough, both long, both sympathetic), her question made me think about the similarities between the men – Dickens and Jobs.
Of course, I don’t want to push this too far: Dickens was an English novelist, born 200 years ago; Jobs was an American technology and design entrepreneur born in the second half of the 20th century. Their world views, their circumstances, their focuses, their attitudes towards food and drink, their family lives and what they did all day was utterly different.
And of course, there are may be traits that are common to many, many of the kind of successful men who are described as geniuses, rather than just to Dickens and Jobs, but, still, here are a few similarities that jumped out at me.
They both worked very hard:
Dickens was bound by a punishing schedule of deadlines driven by the publication of much of his fiction in serial form, whether as novels published by themselves in chunks, or serialised in publications. He often wrote through the night: “Day and night the alarum is in my ears, warning me that I must not run down.”
I loved this image:
“After he’d been writing for long hours in Wellington Street, he would sometimes ask his office boy to bring him a bucket of cold water and put his head into it, and his hands. Then he would dry his head with a towel, and go on writing.”
For Steve Jobs it was famously important that he control every detail of design or marketing of an Apple product or experience… and at one point in his life, not only was he managing Apple, he was managing Pixar too. He blamed his brutal work schedule for his subsequent health problems.
They were both extraordinary successful – successful young and successful at the end of their lives – despite huge setbacks:
Dickens’ titles sold in their tens of thousands, and he read to sell-out audiences of thousands. When he visited America, and when he travelled in England, he was greeted and feted by adoring fans. His celebrity and talent were recognised at his death: he was buried in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey. The grave, left open for two days, overflowed with flowers and messages and Longfellow wrote, “I never knew an author’s death to cause such general mourning. It is no exaggeration to say that this whole country is stricken with grief”. Dickens died relatively wealthy, supporting several households, many family members and families of friends.
But, starting with his scarring childhood experiences of family poverty, Dickens had several brushes with financial disaster as publications folded and books sold less well than predicted particularly in the economic squeeze of the 1840s. And, though it’s hard to imagine now, his work, often finished hastily, was frequently panned by the critics.
Jobs built Apple into the most valuable business in the world. In 2010, Apple had 7% of the revenue in the personal computer market, but 35% of the operating profit. He was a home computing pioneer. He facilitated Toy Story and other Pixar blockbusters. He was behind the iPod and the iTunes store which changed the way we consume music. He was behind the iPhone, which turned mobile phones into music, photography, video, email and web devices. He was behind the iPad, which launched tablet computing, and the App Store, which is leading to the formation of a new content-creation industry. His death made headlines throughout the world and people who’d never met him left flowers near his house.
But he was fired from the company he founded and the launch of his NeXT computer was disastrous.
They both had absolute conviction that they were right:
Dickens was convinced of his own abilities, and nothing in the biography suggests that he wavered from his belief in his own intrinsic talents, though sometimes he lamented that his heath or other commitments got in their way. As he wrote to an aspiring author, George Henry Lewis, “I suppose like most authors I look over what I write with exceeding pleasure”.
He said in 1843, “That I have feel my power now, more than I ever did. That I have greater confidence in myself than I ever had. That I know, if I have my health, I could sustain my place in the minds of thinking men, though fifty writers started up tomorrow”. He dismissed negative critics as “knaves and idiots”.
What Jobs said about Android tablets could stand as a summary of his convictions that the Apple approach was always right: “It is in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough… We think that we have the right architecture not just in silicon, but in our organisation to make these [right kind of] products.” And he was brutally dismissive of critics and, generally, alternative viewpoints.
They were both focused on their consumers, and believed they knew what their consumers wanted:
Dickens’ blend of comedy, high drama (sometimes melodrama) and sentiment was what his audience wanted, and sales of his books were generally high even when critics panned them.
Jobs said to Isaacson, “Some people say, ‘Give customers what they want’, but that’s not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do. People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”
They were both interested in creating integrated experiences… experiences that disrupted the industries they worked in:
Dickens fought with his various publishers and, at different points in his career cut a deal with a printer, pushing the printer towards a publishing role and cutting out his publisher altogether; self-published his work by paying for copies of his books to be printed; and self-published his work by setting up and part-owning periodicals whose main attraction was that they carried his work. He even, towards the end of his life, read his books aloud to paying audiences – an entirely new business model.
Steve Jobs’ commitment to providing an end-to-end user experience, integrating hardware, software and, with iTunes and apps, content acquisition and consumption, was legendary… and runs counter to the direction of the rest of the consumer technology industries. He even created iconic stores that made shopping for technology a different kind of experience.
They were both brilliant performers:
Always interested in the theatre (he staged and acted in a number of amateur and semi-professional plays), Dickens reworked his novels into sequences of set pieces and honed his performances in front of a mirror to maximise his impact when he read to audiences of thousands on extensive tours in the UK and in the US and Canada. Annie Thackerey describes a London appearance (in a way that sounds to me a lot like a later Jobs product launch): “The slight figure (as he appeared to me) stood alone quietly facing the long rows of people. He seemed holding the audience in some mysterious way from the empty stage.”
Jobs’ precision-managed Apple product launches were focused on him as much as the product he was launching, with “…and one more thing…” becoming a catchphrase. He could hold an audience captive, as his famous Stanford Commencement Address demonstrates.
They were both difficult men – ruthless, demanding and sometimes unpleasant and unprincipled in their personal relationships – who nevertheless compelled extraordinary love and loyalty:
Dickens quarreled with even his most supportive and unwavering friends; waged a campaign against his long-suffering wife to justify leaving her, taking his side of the story to the press; cut himself off from spendthrift siblings; and wished one of his disappointing sons “honestly dead”.
His daughter, Katey, speaking to a biographer after his death, said of her father (and his separation from Katey’s mother), “He did not care a damn what happened to any of us. Nothing could surpass the misery and unhappiness of our home. I know things about my father’s character than no-one else ever knew. He was not a good man, but he was not a fast man… but he was wonderful!”
Isaacson says of Jobs, whose view of people was either that they were great or that they were terrible, and who was willing to manipulate, retaliate and eliminate the people who opposed him or who he just didn’t think were good enough, “Even his family members wondered whether he simply lacked the filter that restrains people from venting their wounding thoughts or willfully bypassed it… When he hurt people, it was not because he was lacking in emotional awareness. Quite the contrary: he could size people up, understand their inner thoughts, and know how to relate to them, cajole them, or hurt them at will.” Anne Bowers, looking back at her time working as Apple’s HR director, told Steve Jobs, “You were very impetuous and very difficult but your vision was compelling. You told us, ‘The journey is the reward’. That turned out to be true.”
I could go on: I could mention many other things that both men share: complicated childhoods with themes of abandonment and self-sufficiency; distant and fractured relationships with biological parents and the quest for alternative father figures; challenging relationships with offspring; the ability that each man seems to have had to persuade himself of things that were strongly believed, but quite untrue; their defiance in the face of declining health and the prospect of death. I could even mention the beards…
Dickens died at 58.
Jobs died at 56.
“Now, at last, the core of his being, the creative machine that had persisted in throwing up ideas [and] visions… for thirty-six years, was stilled.”
This is how Tomalin describes the death of Dickens. But it could just as well have been written of Jobs.
We’ve decided to lower the price of our first app, The Three Little Pigs, over the holiday period, as a way of introducing people to our work. We’re taking the price down to $1.99 US/£1.49 GBP/1.59 Euros from now until the end of the day on 2 January 2012.
We think that many people will get iPads and iPhones and iPod touch devices this Christmas (and we know from multiple reported surveys that many people want one). We also know from what we’ve seen of sales of eBooks post-Christmas that many people who get a new device at Christmas seem to spend the days immediately afterwards loading it up with content.
One of the challenges of making apps is getting people to find your app, and, once they’ve found it found it, getting people to buy something that (lite versions notwithstanding) they can’t try before they buy. We think that new iPad, iPhone and iPod touch owners may be particularly cautious about buying apps if they haven’t bought them before. We hope that, by lowering the price of our first app, people will be encouraged to find out about Nosy Crow and maybe even try out the other two apps we’ve published this year.
We’ve just released Bizzy Bear On The Farm. FutureBook described it as “unmistakeably Nosy Crow in design and quality … The app will further Nosy Crow’s reputation in this field, which can only bring relief to ‘bizzy’ parents looking for quality and safe content for their children.”
And, by the way, The Three Little Pigs was no slouch on the awards and critical acclaim front, and is – because it’s been on the market longest – our bestselling app.
We’re confident – based on the five star reviews that we’ve received from people on the app store apart from anything else – that once you’ve shelled out for a Nosy Crow app, you won’t be disappointed. Lowering the price of The Three Little Pigs for a limited time is a bit of an experiment. The app market is still in its infancy, and developers like us are still working out what the best way of selling our products might be.
So wish us luck!
If you have an iPad, iPhone or iPod touch and have managed to withstand the temptation to buy a Nosy Crow app, we hope that this offer will just nudge you over the edge.
We are thrilled to announce that our third highly-interactive storybook app, Bizzy Bear on the Farm, is now available on the App Store for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch.
Using the touchscreen, children aged two and up can explore the farm and help Bizzy Bear with all his chores. They can, for example, feed the pigs, put sheep into their pen, pick apples, gather eggs and drive the tractor!
This is our first app based on a Nosy Crow book series – our popular Bizzy Bear board books for children. But we’re not just squashing the books onto a phone or tablet. While the board books feature chunky tabs to push and pull, the app includes lots more simple ways for little fingers to explore the story, and the words are different too. The children’s voices reading the story, the farmyard sound effects and the specially-composed music make things even more fun.
We’re excited to bring the interactive features we’ve developed in apps (like The Three Little Pigs and Cinderella) for slightly older children to a younger audience.
The app is designed for toddlers and focuses on listening skills, following directions, and completing tasks. Bizzy responds to every touch with encouragement and help.
It’s been very exciting here at Nosy Crow. Last week we launched our second app, Cinderella, and we’ve been thrilled with the overwhelmingly positive response. We have received great feedback from parents, teachers, bloggers and app review sites.
And now, best of all, Cinderella has been recognised in the App Store. Yesterday Cinderella appeared in the list of Staff Favourites on the homepage of the App Store in the UK and Ireland. We took a screen shot because we just couldn’t believe our eyes!
Thank you for all of your support and your thoughtful emails and posts about Nosy Crow apps. Please spread the word, and keep the comments, fan photos, videos and feedback coming our way. We love to hear what you think of Cinderella and her adventures with her fairy godmother, her mean stepsisters and her shy, table-tennis-loving Prince.
It’s been a day since the launch of our second app, Cinderella, and already we’ve been blown away by the response – not just by bloggers and the press, but by everyone who has bought the app, and the parents and grandparents who’ve got in touch on our Facebook and Twitter pages to tell us what they’ve made of it.
We were particularly pleased by this great profile of Nosy Crow in the Guardian, as well as the coverage of Cinderella on Lauren Laverne’s BBC 6Music show (though I fear I may have hurt Kate’s feelings by tweeting that our workplace had become “exponentially cooler” by virtue of having been mentioned by Laverne. Sorry, Kate.) On the 6Music blog, Stuart Dredge describes Cinderella as an app that “blends animation, interactivity and plenty of humour into something that’s genuinely beautiful”. Elsewhere, Digital Storytime have written that “Like their previous app, Nosy Crow has not forgotten a single detail in this delightful title … My child has been completely enthralled with this book from the moment I downloaded it.” On the US site iLounge, Jeremy Horowitz writes that “Three Little Pigs was great; Cinderella is even better”. You can read more of the reviews for Cinderella here.
It’s also been fascinating to track, on platforms like Twitter, the word-of-mouth buzz and instant responses to Cinderella in real time – evidently some fans were up at the crack of dawn to buy the app on iTunes!
Thanks to this amazing cumulative response, Cinderella is now the number one-selling book app for iPad in the UK and number seven in the US, which we’re simply overwhelmed by.
So a heartfelt thanks to those who’ve shown such enthusiasm for Cinderella already – we hope you continue to enjoy it!
You can buy Cinderella for iPad here.
And for iPhone and iPod touch here.
We’ve got some exciting apps news to share. The French version of The Three Little Pigs app, published by our co-edition partner Gallimard Jeunesse, is currently enjoying the top placement on the Apps for Kids section of the App Store in France.
Congratulations to Gallimard on 3 petit cochons! We’re truly delighted with this success and look forward to many more in the months to come.
The English language version of our first app made it to the homepage of the UK App Store. And, to top it off, our German language co-edition partner Carlsen emailed us to say that 3 Sweinchen iPad (the German version of the app) was selected as “App of the Week” in the App Stores in Germany and Austria.
Today’s a big day for all of us at Nosy Crow: our The Three Little Pigs app app is the Number 1 New and Noteworthy app in the UK App Store. It’s on the homepage! This is a real recognition of the app’s quality and innovation. The Three Little Pigs is Nosy Crow’s first app, and it has already been reviewed amazingly well, as you’ll see from the list of reviews in the Media Mentions section of our Media Kit page.
The Three Little Pigs has
appeared on the home pages of 12 continental European countries already it’s great to see it here in the UK App Store. Not only is the UK a really important market for our apps, but it is also “our” store: the one we buy our apps in ourselves.
The app also tops the “What’s Hot” list in book apps on the UK store:
We’ve got some exciting apps news to share. The German version of The Three Little Pigs app hit the App Store late last week, published by our co-edition partner, Carlsen and it’s already topping the charts.
Not only is Die drei kleinen Schweinchen listed in New and Notable, as of today, the iPad and iPhone versions are featured on the App Store homepage in both Germany and Austria. And the iPad version is currently the highest grossing paid app in the Books section (image above). Hooray!
There have also been several nice reviews in the German press and blogs. Here’s one example.
We’re really pleased to be featured in the New and Noteworthy category in 12 Continental European iPad App Stores at the moment. That, and the great review coverage we’ve had, has made us feel all spring-like and expansive, so we’ve decided to price-promote our Three Little Pigs app in app stores throughout the world for one week. Here’s the link.
Who knows, really, what price a really good iPad app should be? This is an evolving market. While there aren’t additional costs-per-unit as there are for books, we know how much work has gone into this app, how much time a child can spend with it and how much it rewards exploration.
As Children’s Technology Review, who awarded The Three Little Pigs an Editor’s Choice Award, said, when confirming, as many reviewers have, that we’ve priced the app appropriately:
“So is it worth $8 — easily the cost of a print edition? We think so, if you’re in search of a premium children’s ebook.”
We stand by our original pricing decisions (and the app will go back to the original prices in a week), but it will be interesting, too, to see how price-sensitive apps are – in particular, whether 5 euros represents any kind of barrier in eurozone countries (where you’d find many of the App Stores in which we’re New and Noteworthy).
The iPhone and iPod touch version are still at the same – cheaper – price. You can find them here.
Oh, and if you know the app already, and rate it and would like to vote for it as one of the Best Apps for Children (it’s called The Three Little Pigs ebook, and has, at the time of writing, a looooong way to go, I’m afraid!) do please click here
Here’s a quote from the review: “…(The) app’s animations, original music and interactive elements bring a new type of spark to this age-old story, making it one of our favorite ebooks. ….So is it worth $8 — easily the cost of a print edition? We think so, if you’re in search of a premium children’s ebook.”
The past two months have been a whirlwind of activity on the apps front for us. After nearly 8 months of planning, developing and testing, we launched the iPad version of The Three Little Pigs on Feb 17 and the iPhone/iPod touch version on March 4.
As new app publishers, we thought those launches were the key milestones… and, of course, they were important. But in some ways the real fun began when we started to hear from reviewers and from customers – parents, teachers, fellow app developers, and children – from around the world. To date, we’ve heard from over 400 people. This direct feedback has been enormously important to us. We’ve been able to find out, in a very (cheering and) direct way that people are enjoying our app and their kids are too. And we’ve also been able to find out how they use it, when they use it, how old their children or students are, and what they’d like to see us offer in our next apps. We’ve always felt that our internal app development process was collaborative – but now we are collaborating with customers too!
We were always aiming high with The Three Little Pigs app: we wanted to create something that was a really new kind of reading experience, that looked and sounded as good as it possibly could, and that was truly interactive. Nevertheless, the success of the app has exceeded our expectations.
Some highlights for us have been:
Featured in iTunes’ New & Noteworthy category in 12 App Stores: Belgium (#4), Denmark (#4), Finland (#4), Greece (#4), Italia (#4), Luxembourg (#4), Nederland (#4, )Norway (#4), Portugal (#4), Spain (#4), Sweden (#4), Switzerland (#4)
Featured in iTunes’ What’s Hot > Books in South Africa, Thailand, Brazil, UK, Russia, Turkey, New Zealand, Ireland, Austria, Norway, Canada, Denmark, Hong Kong
Glowing reviews in many parenting and children’s technology publications – both online and in print, including being listed in “Best Children’s Books for iPad” in the Gadgetwise column in The New York Times and mentioned on television as great app for kids on The CBS Early Show.
Lots of interest from other non-English language publishers which has led to apps co-edition partnerships for versions in French and German. This is a new sort of business model, and it’s exciting to be at the cutting edge.
But this is no time to pat ourselves on the back. There’s work to be done: we have lots more apps to plan, develop and test. We’re in the middle of creating our next release in our fairy tale series, 3D fairy tale: Cinderella. Here’s a sneak peek of two beautifully illustrated scenes (click each image below to see it larger) by Ed Bryan. These are works in progress – you’ll need to wait until June to see the real thing!
What goes into developing a great children’s storybook app? A life-long fascination with computers and gaming technology, that’s what! Recently I talked to Will Bryan (photo of his studio above) about his experience developing The Three Little Pigs. Will’s background is in video games and before joining Nosy Crow as Head of Apps Development – Engineering, he spent 13 years working for Nintendo and Microsoft on titles such as Banjo-Tooie and Viva Piñata.
What was your first computer?
I grew up around computers and the first one I remember having was the Sinclair ZX81. It was customised with a proper push-button keyboard rather than the membrane one they came with. We soon moved on to the Sinclair ZX Spectrum, BBC Micro, Atari ST and beyond. About five years ago I went onto the Internet and tracked down some of these old machines.
What kind of work have you done in the past?
I’ve built websites, developed several video games, and for the last couple of years I’ve been looking into original ideas for Xbox 360 Kinect by day and original ideas for iPhone by night, which is how I came to be at Nosy Crow.
Why have you gone from games to making apps?
Game development has become a bit of a monster. It’s no longer possible for an individual on a game team to have a nice little idea, build it, polish it and have everybody smiling about it on the same day. App development scales all that back. Individuals can have an idea for an app and ship it within a month if they want. Nosy Crow has eleven employees and not all of them are involved in the app side of the business. Those of us that are can sit around a small table and just get on with it. Ideas shared, suggestions thrown about, decisions made.
How do you and your brother Ed (Nosy Crow’s Head of Apps Development – Creative) work together to create an app?
Like a well oiled machine – if only that were true! We’ve been working together for more than 25 years, so we are starting to get the hang of it. My work usually consists of finding how we take an idea and make it a reality. Ed’s much better at honing the fit and finish of an idea once it’s working. He provided a lot of feedback on The Three Little Pigs app features, like flicking the characters. We end up exchanging emails with made up words in them: “Are they flicky enough yet?” “Is the pingyness too much?” If this goes on too long we end up looking at things together and demonstrating issues.
How do you work with illustrators?
It’s a very collaborative process. Since this is a new format, there’s a lot of learning for everyone involved. I’ve found that the quicker we prototype a scene or a character that we can look at and play with, the better. In The Three Little Pigs, we took the original 2d illustrations and arranged them in a 3d model, a bit like a puppet theatre. Each illustration had a place on the stage and we could look around the stage to reveal different things. The accelerometer on the iPad and iPhone allowed us to show how a 2d illustration could be made into so much more.
On the Animal SnApp series we’re working closely with Nikalas and Tim on how to animate their artwork for the app. Their illustration style is very different to that of The Three Little Pigs. As part of our discussions, Nikalas and Tim created a brief video clip to demonstrate how the animation should work. On my side, I expect we’ll produce a bunch of very small prototypes for this project as we work out the best way to proceed.
What was the best part of making The Three Little Pigs?
I always like the last few weeks or months of a project the best. You reach a point where you are on the home straight, the product is mostly complete and you’re busy polishing everything to make it the best it can be. Working with Robin on the music was great. He was keen to make some of the music interactive, which you can hear working in Scene 3 where the pigs first leave home: each pig has his or her own instrument that fades into the music when tapped. It’s detail like this that makes me very proud of The Three Little Pigs.
What was the biggest challenge?
There’s always a worry about whether it’ll all come together on time. The Three Little Pigs is my first iPad/iPhone/iPod touch app and although it’s “just software” I don’t have another engineer sitting across the office from me to talk through problems. Fortunately, over the years I’ve become quite good at figuring things out for both myself and others. Many problems have been solved away from the computer and at the most unexpected moments.
You must see lots of apps. Can you tell us about your favourite ones?
It’s funny, every few weeks we gather together at the Crow’s Nest to discuss projects and the table fills up with iPads, iPhones and iPod touches. I can always tell which devices are mine as I seem to have far fewer apps installed than anyone else. I’ve got a little puzzle game on my iPhone called Glow Puzzle that I continue to enjoy. I like it because I can take as long as I like to study the puzzle before making a move. I’m still waiting for the original Lemmings games to appear on the App Store. I’d be first in line to download them!
What advice would you give to children interested in making their own apps, or computer games?
I recommend looking at other people’s apps or games and begin to question how they work. What happens when you press a button or tap a character? What does a character do if you don’t do anything? If you start to break apps down, they’re often a lot less complicated than they first appear. Software developers are very good at using tricks to make things look cleverer than they really are. Plenty of smoke and mirrors!
What are you working on now?
Our next app is another 3D fairy tale: Cinderella. I’ll be building upon the code I created for The Three Little Pigs but there will also be several new features and some very cool interactive surprises. With the iPad2, I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do to make our storybook apps even more exciting for children.
On Tuesday evening, BBC Radio 4’s Front Row broadcast an interview with me; with Henry Volans of Faber Digital; with a representative of new French company, Byook and with Philip Jones from The Bookseller. We were talking about enhanced ebooks and apps. And yesterday, Kirkus online published a (starred) review of The Three Little Pigs. A week or so ago, the Times Online blog, School Gate included The Three Little Pigs in a round-up of apps (it’s behind the paywall but you can see it here).
It’s great – really great – to have this coverage… but so far, though we’ve had a lot of really excellent online review coverage from bloggers and app specialist sites for The Three Little Pigs app, it strikes us – and fellow app developers certainly seem to agree – that that it’s a challenge to get reviews or features from established book critics in the traditional media (by which I mean established print newspapers and magazines and broadcasters) about apps and enhanced ebooks. From our perspective, this seems to be particularly true for one of the most exciting areas of digital publishing: children’s storybooks.
This is perhaps because the market, and therefore the readership, for apps and enhanced ebooks is in its infancy, and so, therefore, is the market and readership for reviews of apps and enhanced ebooks. But we think it’s also perhaps because there are no established criteria for judging an app or an enhanced ebook, and credible critics with deep experience in judging children’s stories have yet to emerge.
The truth is that no-one’s an expert in this rapidly-evolving area, but here are some questions that we ask ourselves when we are judging a story book app:
Does it have child-appeal?
Why is this story presented as an app, rather than as a printed book?
How easy is the app to understand and navigate?
Is the language, art and interactivity age-appropriate?
How have the creators used the features of the devices to tell the story in a new and engaging way?
How have the creators balanced the narrative thread of the book against the opportunities for interactivity?
Has the interactivity been woven into the story in a meaningful way that enhances the story?
Frankly, we are more than grateful for any coverage and feedback that we can get, wherever it comes from. The App Store’s rate and review section offers an opportunity for us to hear back from real readers, and we also offer the opportunity within the app itself for readers to contact us to tell us what they think.
Less than a year on from the launch of the iPad, and only 18 months on from Winged Chariot’s launch of the first picture book for iPad, this evaluation and these conversations are only just beginning.
For those who don’t know, World Book Day is run as a charity by the UK book industry to celebrate reading and to increase children’s access to books. It’s celebrated throughout the UK and Ireland, particularly by children (though, this year, there’s World Book Night for grown-ups).
At Nosy Crow we’re big supporters of World Book Day – I’m on the World Book Day Executive Committee. This year we are celebrating digital storytelling too. For 24 hours, beginning at midnight tonight and ending at midnight 3 March, our Three Little Pigs app for iPad will be available for £1.19 ($1.99 in the US and 1.59 Euros). The app’s normal price is £4.99 ($7.99 in the US and 5.99 Euros).
The app has received the most extraordinary reviews. Just this afternoon, The Times’ School Gate blog (@schoolgate on Twitter) called The Three Little Pigs “fresh and new. . . our favourite app of all” in their round up of Top Children’s iPad apps. You can read the full review here.
Every year on World Book Day children dress up as their favourite character. Here in the office we are proud parents to children going to school tomorrow as Ruby the Red Fairy, the witch from Axel Scheffler’sRoom on the Broom, Pippi Longstocking, Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz... and, in a tribute to the BBC adaptation: Miss Flyte from Bleak House, (complete with clip-on birds.) Children are given £1 vouchers to take to bookshops to exchange for books, and there’s a range of special World Book Day £1 books to ensure that no-one’s left out. The brilliant Philip Reeve is even coming into my children’s school to talk about books, writing and reading.
The reaction to The Three Little Pigs app for iPad has been fantastic. Everyone is commenting that we’ve hit upon something new and different with this high-tech fairy tale. We’ve come to know the app well whilst working on it over the past few months, so it’s really exciting to get the reactions of people who have just downloaded it from the App Store.
In a post last week, Kate shared some of the early reviews The Three Little Pigs has received on blogs that cover children’s books, digital books, storybook apps and on publishing industry websites. More and more reviewers are singing the app’s praises and you can see links to some of them on our site. [If you come across any new ones, or if you’ve written your own, please share them with us!]
This week we have heard directly from many parents and a few children too. We love getting this important feedback! Mums and dads and grandparents in places as far afield as China, Thailand, the US, Korea, Canada, Australia and Mexico have downloaded the app and here are some of the things they say:
“This is great, my little Nicole is almost two years old and she knows how to play.” — Eryka
“I love love love it. My two-year-old loves it too, but doesn’t quite get how special this is, she just expects every other app to be just as good. Thank you and congratulations, I look forward to more nosy crowd magic.” — Ximena
“This is the most gorgeous app I have seen. Fabulous art and animation, in a class by itself. You’ve created your own gorgeous art form. Brava!” — Kathy
“Awesome! My boy loves it!” — David
“We LOVE the wolf especially when he squeals after burning his bum! But could he please have a gruffer voice as long as it doesn’t scare the kids? We also love the spider and the bunny, and the movement. And now it’s time for bed.” — Catherine and Elizabeth
“Fantastic. I know my grandchildren (ages 3 and 5) will love it.” — Charles and Barbara
“It’s utterly laugh out loud fabulous. What fun! Who’d have known pigs are ticklish? A beautiful and wonderful story app for big and little kids.” — Denise
“It’s fantastic! My four year old loved it for tonight’s bedtime story. Can’t wait for the next one!”— Deborah
On Monday morning we heard from the mother of 4-year-old Dylan, who told us “Dyl is completely enamoured with it, and has been grabbing the iPad first thing to read it, and as soon as he comes home from school he’s been heading straight for “the pad” as well. The result is that by Saturday he could recite the whole thing (in his Dylan-esque way).”
In case we didn’t trust her, she attached this video to prove her point. She explained “The video goes on to show the whole recital, including much howling when the wolf burns his bottom, but is too big to email!”
Thanks to Dylan’s mum and to all of you who have written. Please keep these emails coming!
Our first app, The Three Little Pigs is available on iPad (there’s a Lite version too), and will be available on iPhone in the first week of March.
The gestation was longer and more complicated than we’d thought, but I really think the result was even better than we’d hoped.
We thought it was great… but we would, wouldn’t we?
What’s been very encouraging, is that, already, after just a day or so, other people seem to think so too. We’ve just had our very first online reviews:
Pad Gadget wrote: “Do your kids act like the Big Bad Wolf and try to huff and puff and blow the house down? If so, give them the perfect iPad app and let them go to town. A new version of The Three Little Pigs app just hit the App Store and kids will love it… If you and your kids love an entertaining app with lots of interactive features, this version of The Three Little Pigs is a wonderful choice
Fun Educational Apps wrote: “The version [of The Three Little Pigs] from Nosy Crow, is simply one of these app you need to have.There are just so many plus points with this app; the best is for you to give it a try. Here at Fun Educational Apps, we all loved it and are really looking forward to see more apps from Nosy Crow.“
Digital Storytime wrote: “[The Three Little Pigs] is interactive in unique and fun ways that make the story feel more ‘alive’ than any other ebook I’ve read with my chid… It’s a multi-media reading experience you and your kids won’t soon forget.”
The Literary Platform wrote: “on opening the app, I found myself thinking, ‘well if you can’t get this digital publishing thing right, what hope for others?’ Thankfully Kate and her talented team have got it right… The voices of child narrators are beautifully complemented by original music (adding real drama to the chase scenes) and a flurry of inventive iPad features.”
Kid Lit wrote: “What an app this is! It’s Nosy Crow’s Three Little Pigs, A 3-D Fairy Tale… This is a breathtaking app with beautiful art and really rich user interface.”
IPhone and Kids Forum wrote: “This app features sophisticated animation, original interactive music, child narrators and hundreds of interactive touch points. Kids will want to read it again and again. It’s never the same twice.”
There was a great and positive buzz on Twitter too, with lots of positive mentions for @nosycrow and @nosycrowapps (we tweet using both). We even had a hashtag spring up.
On the App Stores int the UK and US, there are already several reviews (for the Lite and the Full versions:
Awesome – ★★★★★
by Summer dolly – Version 1.0 – 16 February 2011
Best kids’ storybook I have seen on app store. Looks amazing, and just makes you smile on every page. My 7 year old picked it up and engaged straight away, and I loved it just as much. Bought the lite version to try it and loved that, but the proper version is at just a whole new level. Not cheap, but for once, an app that’s worth the money.
Brilliant app for kids! – ★★★★★
by Emma Wells – Version 1.0 – 16 February 2011
Wow, this takes children’s apps to a whole new level! My children, 5 and 9 years, love The Three Little Pigs App. There is so much going on and they find something new every time they use it. Easy to navigate, great to look at and really good fun. Highly recommended.
Best interactive story app – ★★★★★
by Rebecca Smart – Version 1.0 – 17 February 2011
From the professional opening animation to the end of the story this interactive picture book app is wonderful. Easy to use, beautiful and clever artwork and animation. Lots of lovely details which give a sense of a great deal of care and attention having gone into this work. Natural children’s voices provide narration. Fun interaction with the characters throughout. Best children’s story app I’ve seen.
An immersive, entertaining and charming pop-up – ★★★★★
by Lylers – Version 1.0 – 18 February 2011
There are some pretty tough app critics in my house, but The Three Little Pigs got a unanimous thumbs-up! The 3D technology is so immersive, you really feel like you’re going on the journey with them! We loved the subtle and fun interactions like the spider. If you want an iPad book that can KEEP them entertained and engaged, I highly recommend this kids’ app.
A beautiful, playful, interactive experience – ★★★★★
by Harry Robinson – Version 1.0 – 18-Feb-2011
This is quite simply the most charming rendition of The Three Little Pigs that I have ever experienced. The illustration is stunning, the music delightful and the overall package a sublime use of the iPad’s strengths. An absolute must-buy for anyone with children or for someone seeking to reignite their inner child.
Perfect – ★★★★★
by Lev Parikian – Version 1.0 – 19-Feb-2011
My son’s review: “It’s great!”
My review: This app gets it right in every way. Children reading the story, fantastic illustrations, great and fun animations, hidden stuff that you don’t discover until you’ve read it a couple of times, excellent music. Nosy Crow haven’t put a foot wrong with this – look forward to more great ones in the future.
Charming and fun – ★★★★★
by Tania:) – Version 1.1 – 19-Feb-2011
The classic Three Little Pigs story gets a makeover in ths delightful app by Nosy Crow. Packed with goregous illustrations, charming voiceovers and plenty of interactive fun, this is everything an app should be. We especially enjoyed helping the wolf blow the houses down and spotting the rabbit, but there are plenty of other hidden exras.
With options to read and play, read alone or have the story read out loud, The Three Little Pigs is perfect for confident readers as well as the more reluctant reader. A big thumbs-up from me and my daughter.
The Lite and the Full versions are currently number 1 and 2 on the UK App Store’s book section of New and Noteworthy apps, as you can see from the picture.