November 14, 2016 Last Updated 3:27 pm

Make reading fun again: Amazon Rapids and iBooks StoryTime

Guest column: Bradley Metrock, CEO of Nashville-based Score Publishing, discusses the two new platforms for children’s digital books from two of the major tech companies

Amazon and Apple have launched new technologies – Amazon Rapids and iBooks StoryTime – this month that provide new opportunities for children to read more.  Both are sturdy offerings that both challenge, and broaden, our accepted notion of a “digital book.”

Amazon Rapids is a cross-platform mobile application in which children’s stories are told as sequences of text messages.  There’s a variety of genres available, from humor to fantasy to adventure, and hundreds of stories adapted specifically for this new medium.

Digital Book World featured a remarkably condescending article hating on Amazon Rapids for “dumbing down” reading. Why anyone would be negative about this new app is anyone’s guess: this type of investment into digital book R&D should be celebrated, not feared, as we come to understand the future of digital books is a many-sided prism of seemingly infinite niches, all of which complement (rather than replace) physical books.

ibooksstorytime-screen

iBooks StoryTime, an app for the latest versions of the Apple TV, brings “read-aloud” children’s books to the big screen.  Words are highlighted in lock-step with narrations for a large number of mass-market books, each sold separately through the app (though a Dora book is given for free upon downloading iBooks StoryTime).

As I wrote here, iBooks StoryTime shows the potential to be enough of a reason, by itself, to push families to buy Apple TVs.

As promising and useful as both of these apps are for their intended purposes, both are doomed to failure without the ability to create content to self-publish.  We live in a maker’s world – the Minecraft and YouTube generation – that aren’t passive consumers of content anymore, and won’t be found where creation isn’t possible.

Apple has the advantage here, as iBooks Author could receive additional templates or functionality to readily allow production of iBooks StoryTime-compatible EPUB books.  Amazon should produce a tool specifically to allow creation of Rapids back-and-forth stories, which would take its place alongside all of Amazon’s various other publishing tools.

Interestingly, the secret to getting this generation’s kids reading more, is to get this generation’s kids writing and creating and conceiving.  If Amazon and Apple fail to provide these opportunities for Amazon Rapids and iBooks StoryTime, they shouldn’t have bothered releasing them in the first place.

Bradley Metrock is CEO of Score Publishing, a digital media company based in Nashville, Tennessee, with the mission of helping people become better interactive content creators. His company produces the annual iBooks Author Conference, as well as the upcoming Alexa Conference.

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