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Apps Blog Post by Stuart Dredge

Stuart Dredge:

The more I thought about all this technology, and how my own three and five year-old sons use apps, the more I realised that the best children's apps are successful because of a pair of more traditional qualities.

Great storytelling. Strong characters.

It seems apps aren't so revolutionary after all, but that's a good thing. Treat any claims that apps are set to kill off books with the derision they deserve. Apps are just another form of storytelling, and one that sit alongside printed books rather than trying to replace them.

(This, hopefully, will head off the crotchety commenters who appear whenever I write about children's apps for The Guardian, saying things like "You idiot! Children should be reading BOOKS, not staring at a screen!" Ridiculous, since children in even the geekiest households are doing both, not replacing the former with the latter.)

Children love great stories and strong characters, whether they're on a screen or a printed page.

Nosy Crow Blog Post On Writing Children's Apps

Excellent blog article posted by @NosyCrow at the weekend, but which I missed at the time (probably due to the Olympics).

In it, Kate Wilson is responding to a blog post on Picture Book Den by Moira Butterfield in which she was calling for greater involvement by picutre book authors in the creation of original apps, rather than leaving it to techies to codify traditional tales and existing books (I summarise her post - Kate links to the full piece).

Kate responds by arguing that apps are NOT like picture books, and a different, more collaborative skillset is required to create them. I hope she won't mind me quoting the differences she cites in full:

[W}riting 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.

Nosy Crow Freebie Experiment


Independent publisher Nosy Crow is experimenting with a free price model for one of its apps for the first time. Bizzy Bear Builds a House is free TODAY for one day only. This interactive picture book app, recommended for children ages 2 to 4, is the second in a series of apps based on Nosy Crow's popular Bizzy Bear board book series illustrated by Benji Davies.

The app will return to its full price of $3.99/ £2.49 tomorrow, Thursday July 26.

Kindle App Upgraded

Amazon has released a major update to its Kindle app for Android, and it basically turns any Android phone or tablet into a Kindle Fire...

Penguin Children's Books has announced a global publishing deal for the critically acclaimed app, Whale Trail.

Eric Huang, Publishing Director, Media & Entertainment Group, has acquired publishing rights (world rights all languages) for Puffin. Created by digital design studio, ustwo, Whale Trail is a psychedelic, surreal and highly addictive flying game. Players control Willow the Whale through a magical rainbow world, dodge angry clouds and escape the evil Baron von Barry. Whale Trail also includes a soundtrack by Gruff Rhys of Super Furry Animals.

Penguin Children's has pioneered creating book programmes behind digital brands (Club Penguin, Moshi Monsters, Skylanders). Partnering with ustwo to create the narratives for the books, a digital picture book will be released in October 2012 followed by further publishing - both digital and physical formats - in 2013. This collaboration between Penguin and ustwo marks the first publishing deal behind a brand that has debuted as an app.

Eric Huang said, 'I discovered Whale Trail from Gruff Rhys' music video. When I downloaded the app, I was hooked. There's something so fresh and cool about the art direction. I wanted to know more about Willow and his world and thought, we should publish a book! And since Whale Trail is a digital brand, it made sense to lead with an ebook.'

ustwo™ is a digital design studio that delivers pioneering user experiences as digital partner to the world's leading brands including Sony, Sony Ericsson, Intel, H&M, BBC, Turner and J.P.Morgan. Driven by their 'love digital' mission, they specialise in interaction & user interface design, app development and digital entertainment. They design multi-platform experiences across mobile, tablet, TV and beyond across a range of markets including mobile, consumer electronics, retail, entertainment, medical and financial.

NZ iPad App & Title


Kiwi (New Zealand) company Nabee Productions has released their first interactive children's book for the iPad and has already made it to No.1 on the Top iPad Books in New Zealand within a day of its release. Nabee, which means "butterfly" in Korean, takes its readers on a journey of metamorphosis through its lesson-filled books, breathing magic back into storytelling.

Scholastic [US] App For Ebooks

Scholastic Inc. is developing an app called Storia, which includes around 1,300 e-books and multimedia e-books that can be bought directly from the publisher or from retailers. Such favorite picture series as "Clifford the Big Red Dog" and "Ready, Freddy!" will be in digital format for the first time. The app also will feature games, quizzes, interactive stories, an e-dictionary and a virtual book shelf that kids can organize.

Scholastic Media president Deborah Forte says the idea is to make e-books "more accessible and more relevant."

A beta version will become available Tuesday for teachers and families who buy through the Scholastic Book Clubs and other Scholastic sales channels. Storia is expected to launch for the general public in the fall, when it should have more than 2,000 books.

Forte said Scholastic sees the app "as a way to support reading and something that's just plain fun."

The app is free and will be available first at, then on iTunes later this month. Those who download the app will get five free books, including two multimedia selections. Forte says the e-books should range in price from $1.95 to $20.

Foyles Ebookstore And App

FOYLES has joined forces with txtr, a German ebook platform, to launch a new ebook shop and app.
Foyles's new ebook shop offers more than 200,000 titles and a free app, which is available on both Android and iOS devices.

Tales For Great Grandchildren

Tales for Great Grandchildren, is a collection of 13 stories drawn from the mythology and folklore of India and Nepal, which John Jackson encountered on his travels over 30 years ago. It is aimed primarily at children aged 7 to 12.

One of the founding principles of JJ Books is to bring the magical experience of reading a traditional illustrated hardback into the 21st century.

Released on 28th February, the app will be free to download (which includes one Tale), with each subsequent Tale available for £0.69.

Bizzy Bear On The Farm

Enthusiastic GiggleApps review of a Nosy Crow interactive book.

Children's Non-Fiction Title On Ipad

the app is a result of a partnership between the book's author Mary Kay Carson, the new children's publishing company Bookerella and the ad agency Story Worldwide

E For Enhancement

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E For Enhancement

Book apps for tablets and smartphones and enhanced e-books for e-readers are going far beyond the transfer of book text to Kindle screen. By bringing audio, video, animation and games to what was once the simple printed page, apps are beginning to fundamentally change our understanding of what makes a book a book...

says this article in the Sacramento Bee

Nosy Crow Wins App of the Year Award

iLounge, the online magazine for mobile Apple devices, has declared Nosy Crow's Cinderella its iPad Kids App of the Year as part of its 2012 Buyers' Guide, beating off stiff competition from runners-up including Dano Pirate HD from Bambino Avenue and ABC Food from Peapod Labs.

Jeremy Horwitz, iLounge's Editor-in-Chief, said that, "Of all the kids' applications we've tested over the past year for iPads, Nosy Crow's Cinderella was most certainly the best. The story dates back centuries, but Nosy Crow's version feels like something entirely new, bringing the classic characters to life inside funny, surprisingly interactive 3-D environments. The charming voice work alone is good enough to justify the purchase, and as you listen, you'll discover a dozen little details that all work together to make Cinderella memorably excellent."

Timmy Time App

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Egmont have launched a Timmy Time App. Created in conjunction with Aardman Animations Ltd, creators of Wallace & Gromit, and Firsty Group, experts in book app development, the App features stories, colouring pages, a Timmy-style keyboard and even video clips from the TV show.
It's fully interactive and touch enabled, giving children the chance to bring the Timmy Time world to life and play alongside their friends Timmy, Paxton, Yabba, Otus, and Mittens.

Not Just An App Review

some interesting observations:

despite having the word book in their names, this collection of Kindle Fire formatted children's books are as much apps as they are books. If that assumption is correct, then the "appification" of 1,000-books (or 1,000 apps) of children's book/apps before the Kindle Fire launch next month appears to be heavily subsidized by Amazon. Book publishers, especially the long-tail of small-house children's book publishers, are already strapped keeping up with two formats (iOS and Kindle) to support yet another format, the Kindle Fire version of Android (which, like iOS apps, must be approved by Amazon before making it onto the Kindle Fire).

However, as always, some creative entrepreneurs started thinking about books as software long ago. The Kindle Fire could be their overnight success that took ten years to happen. For example, the decade-old company, zuuka, publishes iStory Time apps for the iPad via iTunes and will have Fire formatted books on day one.

Noteworthy Apps for Children - New York Times

a New York Times Gadgetwise selection of children's apps

Toddler Apps

Five recommendations from

iPad App Review: Who Says Moo?

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iPad App Review - Who Says Moo?

review from

Taking the board book into the next century is Who Says Moo? from developer KneeBouncers, LLC. Incorporating animated interactive drawings, sound effects, read-aloud features, and even the ability to record your own custom voice-over narration, Who Says Moo? is a children's book that aims to educate and entertain...

What's A Bear To DO?

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What's A Bear To Do?

Disney have released their first ever Android app, and this one's to go along with their latest movie. Called "Winnie the Pooh: What's a Bear to Do?"

Timor The Alligator

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A preview of XG Media's first Interactive eBook App: Timor the Alligator - Brushing his Teeth. Soon available on iPad and Android Devices.

The Making of: Timor the Alligator - Brushing his Teeth / Interactive eBook from XG Media on Vimeo.

iPad Apps For Toddlers

The New York Times recommends five...

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