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.
In the past, we’ve written here about some of the best books for boys and girls, and have received lots of comments about what makes a great book for a boy or girl and suggestions of titles to add to each list.
And given the wide gulf between these lists, it’s always gratifying to see a book or app enjoying real crossover appeal, and even more so when it’s particularly unexpected. We’re very proud of our Cinderella storybook app, but equally, we are under no illusions – Cinderella is clearly skewed towards girls (though evidently that was not always the case).
And yet, rather pleasingly, this doesn’t seem to have discouraged male readers. Boys who would, in usual circumstances, most likely have no interest in a fairytale like Cinderella, have taken to it with gusto. In the photo below, you can see that Thomas, aged 6, has proudly helped the King stack up over 100 invitations to the ball:
Perhaps we shouldn’t have been surprised that the app has proven to be such a hit with both sexes – it boasts great music and amazing artwork (which girls certainly don’t have a monopoly on liking), is highly interactive, and you can make the stuffy old stepmother do somersaults – a prospect that evidently holds universal appeal.
So if there are any male fans of Cinderella in your family, please – let us know! And – boys or girls – we’d love to know which parts of our Cinderella app are among your favourites.
Cinderella has everything so many of you loved about the Three Little Pigs app. A traditional story plus cool interactive elements. You can help Cinderella clean up the kitchen. Gather items the fairy godmother will turn into the magic horse-drawn carriage. Change the color of Cinderella’s dress. And even pick the music for the Prince and Cinderella’s dance. Classical, disco or Bollywood style? It’s up all to you.
And there’s a special surprise for those of you who have an iDevice with a front-facing camera, like the Pad2, iPhone4 or the fourth generation iPod touch. The camera will capture an image of your face and insert it right onto the screen of the story. You’ll actually appear right there inside the “magic mirrors” in Cinderella’s house, next to her and her stepsisters.
So what else can we say? We hope you love Cinderella, and we’d love to hear your feedback. Leave a comment below, or on Twitter @nosycrowapps, or on our Facebook page. Better yet… leave a review on iTunes and help our version of Cinderella rise magically to the top of the app charts!!
Who knew that a picture book app could get children to dance?! Well, we didn’t. But that was just one of the wonderful surprises at the shoot for our Cinderella app video trailer.
Cinderella is the second app in our series of 3D Fairy Tales, and we’re just a month away from its release. So while brothers Ed and Will Bryan are putting the finishing touches on the animations and coding, it was time to make our video.
All along, we’ve felt that our Cinderella app is enchanting and magical. And dare we say, it may even be a step up from our Three Little Pigs app! Ed’s illustrations are beautiful, the characters’ comments are insightful and funny, and we’ve incorporated new interactive features that truly involve children in the story. Kids can drag things across the kitchen to help Cinderella clean-up; they can catch mice in the garden for the Fairy Godmother to transform into the carriage’s coachman and horses; and they can even change the colour of Cinderella’s dress.
But we hadn’t expected the reaction we got from these girls – the second Cinderella and the Prince hit the dance floor at the ball, THEY were dancing too!
And we always thought reading was more of a sedentary activity…
Stay tuned for more news about the final weeks leading up to the launch of our Cinderella app.
Today, I did an event at the Hay Festival – for parents, authors, illustrators and teachers – with the title “Are Apps The New Picture Books?”
In short, I don’t think that they are: I think that the best apps are a different kind of engaging, personal, interactive, different-every-time reading experience from the picture book experience. I have said before that I think that it is absolutely right that we should be providing children with reading experiences wherever they are spending their time. (You can read a bit about our views in this blog post.)
At the event, I spoke about the importance of children reading for pleasure; about trends in children’s reading frequency, enjoyment and chosen reading material in the UK; about children as, in that rather tired phrase, “digital natives”; and about Nosy Crow’s experience of the process of making an app. But the one thing that I promised to include in a blog post was the list of 9 children’s “picture book” apps that I spoke about at the event. Here they are, with links, where available, to their YouTube trailers:
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.
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.
We’ve been cooking up a deal on our apps for a while, and today we announced that Carlsen will be publishing in German, and Gallimard Jeunesse will be publishing in French, a full range of Nosy Crow’s story book apps, beginning with our The Three Little Pigs app. The picture shows Carlsen’s Klaus Humann (right) and Frank Kuehne (left) with Kate, signing the agreement on the Nosy Crow stand today.
This is really great for Nosy Crow, not least because Carlsen and Gallimard are best-in-class children’s book publishers with real vision in the area of digital publishing, so they were natural partners for this digital publishing adventure. Many app publishers have chosen to bundle languages into one app, but we really believe that there are business model advantages in a digital version of “co-edition” publishing. It means that everyone gets a great app while managing their financial risk. Just as importantly, the partner publishers bring their publishing skills to create the best possible foreign-language version that will appeal to parents and children in their own language. And we know that they can provide the kind of publicity and connection with people who might want to buy them that will the apps really visible – and successful – in their own countries.”
Klaus Humann who’s the Publisher of Carlsen Germany, says:
“The question is: how to entertain the next generation of kids? Books will still play the most important part, but other media will fascinate girls and boys alike. The partnership between Carlsen Germany and Nosy Crow is an important new element in the strategic development of our digital publishing that we have started very successfully with our Pixi and Connie apps. There are only a few publishers who have the ideas and the vision for the years to come, so we are happy to co-operate with a partner whose capacity in this innovative field is outstanding and who shares our sense of quality as much as our spirit of publishing adventure.”
Hedwige Pasquet who’s President of Gallimard Jeunesse, says:
“We are excited to be able to add to our apps publishing programme through this collaboration with the talented and imaginative team at Nosy Crow. Like us, they are interested in bringing book publishing skills to reinvent children’s reading experience for the digital age. They have developed not only the best picture book app ever published, but have re-defined what a children’s storybook app can be, demonstrating the full potential of this new medium. These apps combine top quality with rich inventiveness: best-in-class for sure – in fact, in a class of their own!”
Today, Deb and I went to the first Tools of Change conference at Bologna. Tools of Change is a sequence of conferences about publishing in the digital age, but today’s was the first to focus exclusively on children’s books.
Organised, at least in part, by Neal Hoskins of Winged Chariot, who couldn’t be more passionate in his conviction about the importance of apps as a new form of story-telling for children, it was a 200+ person conference with delegates from 27 countries… and a great success.
Deb spoke eloquently about the interactivity that’s at the heart of our apps development. She spoke about the interactivity that is at the heart of the content – we want to creat apps that children want to read, explore and play with. She spoke about the interactivity that is the basis of how we create an app, pulling together original text, audio, music, illustration, animation and coding into a whole in a way that involves lots of collaboration. She spoke about the interactivity that we have with readers and buyers of the app, as the digital world provides us ways of finding out – and acting upon – what our customers think of what we’re doing. She was mobbed by publishers at the end of the panel discussion in which she took part, all keen to find out more about what we do and how we do it.
And, at the very beginnning of the conference, I delivered the first keynote address. Frankly, this was playing against type: I could bore for Britain about Nosy Crow and what we believe is important, but I thought that the first keynote should sort of sketch out the landscape that the rest of the conference might cover. Armed only with data from Book Marketing Limited and The Futures Company, together with a few opinions, I talked about, on the one hand, digital selling and marketing of print books and of eBooks and other reading experiences; and, on the other hand. about digital products. First I talked about what was happening now in those two areas, and then I looked at what might happen in the future.
The opportunities for digital selling and marketing are already huge. One in four books – and one in five children’s books – in the UK is sold via an internet-only retailer (and Amazon is much the largest of these) so digital selling is a real and growing fact of life. Websites, electronic marketing and social media have opened up a way for publishers, who have traditionally “handed off” relationships with readers and book-buyers to retailers, to communicate directly with their consumers in a two-way conversation, and we have seen the development of the “consumer critic” – blog and rate-and-review website-enabled people whose opinion is trusted by other consumers, perhaps more than they trust the voice of the professional critic.
The opportunities for digital selling and marketing will, I think, only grow in future, and I quoted Aaron Miller of Bookglutton:
“Social publishing is the natural evolution of publishing as a business. It encompasses the web and all new distribution platforms including the way people read and discover on them… Social publishing involves a deep interest in, and study of, what happens to a text after it’s disseminated – how readers interact with it, how they share it, how they copy it, how they talk about it.”
The market for digital product is still evolving. Ebooks (and I’m not including apps here) accounted for only 1.26% of the UK book market by volume in 2010 and 0.4% of the UK children’s book market in the same year.
Nevertheless, the rate of adoption of digital reading is accelerating: in January 2010, just 3% of US book-buyers had bought a digital book, but by January 2011, that figure was 13%. And where the US leads, I think, the rest of the world will follow. Looking ahead, one concern is the consumer expectation that digital product should be cheap, or, indeed, free. As Lyle Undercoffler of Disney said, “Free is the four-letter word of digital publishing – the word that we don’t want to hear.” Another concern are the ongoing challenges to copyright. Almost a year ago, I wrote a blog post welcoming England’s Digital Economy Bill, and it now seems perfectly possible that the current government may not implement this protection of creators’ rights. Whether or not this Bill represents exactly the right way to protect the rights of creators is less important to this post today than the fact that this challenge to copyright may be in line with consumer expectations that they should be able to interact with, personalise and change the things that they read in ways that suit them. I quoted Adam Penenberg:
“Instead of stagnant words on a page we will layer video throughout the text, add photos, hyperlink material, engage social networks of readers who will add their own videos, photos, and wikified information so that these multimedia books become living, breathing, works of art.”
When I think about the impact of the digital world on publishing, I think of this quote from the twentieth-century economist Joseph Schumpeter:
“A railroad through new country upsets all conditions of location, all cost calculations, all production functions within its radius of influence and hardly any ways of doing things which have seemed optimal before remain so afterwards.”
The role of the publisher is changing. If there is this thing that we call “content” – ideas, words, images, audio, video, animation – and there is a reader, and there is a process for getting that content to the reader, we need to think strategically about what our role in that process is. We don’t, as publishers, have any kind of right to play a part in that process. We have to carve out our place in the process, by bringing to it something that we can do better than anyone else.
No-one owes us publishers lunch. We have to earn it.
Now iPhone and iPod touch owners can experience our highly-acclaimed fully-animated, interactive version of The Three Little Pigs fairy tale app. We’ve spent the past two weeks making sure it looks and works just as well on small screen iOS devices as it does on the iPad.
For more details, including a video, click here
You can click on the App Store logo to download it:
And once you’ve got the app, be sure to try:
Flicking the characters to make them jump, spin and speak
Blowing on the screen to help blow down the pigs’ houses
Helping the pigs build each of their houses
Tilting the screen to reveal more of the scene and to find hidden characters
Chasing the pigs down the road in the wolf’s van
Dropping the wolf down the chimney and celebrating with the pigs
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.