retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

A sign of the future, courtesy of the Man in the Yellow Hat.

The Boston Globe reports that "venerable publisher" Houghton Mifflin Harcourt "is releasing two special iPad versions from the Curious George book series that enable readers to enjoy old stories in new ways ... Augmenting the text are embedded slideshows and animation as well as touch-responsive puzzles and digital mazes ... The first two multi-touch iPad versions in the series, 'Curious George Says Thank You' and 'Curious George in the Big City,' are now available in the Apple iBookstore and priced at $3.99 for a limited time.

"Two new titles in the Curious George Multi-Touch Storybook and Activity Series will launch every month for the next six months, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt said in its release."

“The interactive multi-touch format features embedded tools that allow children to enjoy an immersive reading experience by playing an active role in George’s adventures,” the publisher said in its announcement.

There will be some who will decry this evolution, who will say that somehow our kids will lose something if they don't pick up a physical book and read it the old fashioned way.

ButI I don't see it that way. I love books - I read both old-fashioned books and e-books, but I'm generally agnostic about the format.

There is a wonderful passage from "The Real Thing," a play by Tom Stoppard, in which his protagonist, a writer named Henry, says the following:

"Words ... They're innocent, neutral, precise, standing for this, describing that, meaning the other, so if you look after them you can build bridges across incomprehension and chaos. But when they get their corners knocked off, they're no good any more... I don't think writers are sacred, but words are. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones in the right order, you can nudge the world a little or make a poem which children will speak for you when you're dead."

I'm not sure that format is sacred ... but as Stoppard writes, words are. And these Curious George e-books will have words. And more. Which will make them even more compelling to young readers.

It is a pattern that will continue as they get older and become shoppers ... which is why retailers and marketers need to accept the idea that their world is being nudged. More than a little. (Which is what our next story is about.)
KC's View: