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Posted by Tom, November 20, 2012

The story behind Stories Aloud

Our first Bookseller cover!

Last week we announced a brand new digital reading initiative for 2013, Stories Aloud. We’ve been absolutely thrilled by the response, so today I thought I’d explain a little bit about how Stories Aloud was born (and exactly how it works).

The idea of bundling together digital audio with our print books in this way came out of a conversation between Kate and me earlier this year: Kate had seen other technologies which gave her the idea of linking digital audio to print in quite similar ways, but then I suggested using QR codes.

For a long time, though, I was really not a fan of QR codes at all, having only seen them being used in what seemed to me to be pretty thoughtless or kneejerk ways (on the other side of an underground train platform, for instance, where they (a) can’t be reached, and (b) until very recently, wouldn’t have achieved anything even if they could be got at, as they rely on an Internet connection) and quite often with nothing to offer the person scanning (why would I scan the code on a piece of cheese?).

But for Stories Aloud, though, they struck me as being quite attractive for a number of reasons.

First, the fact that they are becoming so commonplace – as opposed to being a whizz-bang new piece of technology – was actually appealing: we wanted something that would be accessible and familiar to people.

Second, they’re free… and Stories Aloud is about offering free content, so we didn’t want people to have to spend money to get access to that free content

Third, they’re a generic technology, and although you do have to download a QR code reader app to your phone, you can download any QR code reader app and it will still work – it’s not a proprietary thing that relies on a specific app.

And fourth, because we were offering real content (rather than just a sales pitch) at the other end of the code, it seemed as if it was something people might actually want to do.

We’ve deliberately made the whole process as simple, straightforward and non-intrusive as possible. We didn’t want Stories Aloud to be technology for technology’s sake, or something that would distract from the enjoyment of a book – we wanted it to be something that would genuinely empower children to enjoy books, while also having an appeal to retailers and librarians who wanted an easy way of being able to offer digital content.

If you’d like to see quite how simple it is, you can watch the video below, of Kate introducing the project:

And here are the step-by-step instructions, taken from our Stories Aloud page:

Download a QR code reader (they’re free) to your smart phone, iPod Touch or tablet by searching on your device’s app store.
Scan the code on the inside front cover of each Nosy Crow paperback picture book with your smart phone or tablet.
Hear the story! Once the webpage has loaded, press play to hear the story – with sound effects and original music – streamed to your phone or tablet. You need a 3G or WiFi connection to do this: you can listen to it whenever and where you are connected to the internet.

And if that hasn’t satisfied your curiosity, why not try it yourself? Scan the QR code below on your smart phone or tablet for the audio reading for Pip and Posy: The Super Scooter by Axel Scheffler (one of our launch titles, publishing in January), and then take a look inside the book with the preview below (you’ll need to do that on a PC or laptop).

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this project: do you think it’s a good or bad idea? Is the idea of getting digital content with a physical book an important or appealing one to you? Would you do it differently?