Wednesday, December 15, 2010

NPR > Kids' Books Make The Leap Off The Page And Online

National Public Radio  / December 15 2010 /  Lynn Neary

Staying ahead of the younger generation isn't easy for the book publishing industry. [snip]. In an effort to keep up, children's books publishers are enticing young readers with books that include web-based games and interactive websites — even videos that are an integral part of the reading experience. These multi-platform books allow kids to move seamlessly from the printed page to the digital page, and are designed to appeal to both the avid and reluctant readers.

Lisa Holton is founder of Fourth Story Media, a company committed to creating what she calls "transmedia" projects. These are books that can be experienced across multiple platforms — from print to digital and back again. [snip].

Holton got her first taste of that excitement when she was president of the trade division at Scholastic, the children's book publisher. At that time, Scholastic was developing what has become one of its most popular series, 39 Clues. The 10 books in the series follow the adventures of Amy and Dan Cahill, a brother and sister who have recently learned that they are part of powerful family.

As the series begins, Amy and Dan are sent to find 39 clues that will explain the source of the family's power. But as Scholastic editorial director David Levithan explains, the search for clues doesn't just stay on the page.

"In the books, you're reading about Amy and Dan and other family members as they race to find the 39 clues," Levithan explains, "But then when you go online, you become a Cahill family member — so while they're in the books looking for the clues, you are online also looking for the clues."

And that's what makes the series exciting, says the series' editor Rachel Griffiths. The stories are set all over the world and involve historical figures like Mozart, Benjamin Franklin and Amelia Earhart. Ten of the 39 clues can be found within the books — but the rest must be unearthed using a pack of cards included in each book, and by taking part in online missions. On the web, readers can talk to the characters and solve puzzles.


At Fourth Story Media, Holton drew on her experience with 39 Clues to create a different kind of multi-platform series, this one for teenage girls. In partnership with HarperTeen publishers, her company has developed The Amanda Project — a great mystery with plenty of subplots.


So far, one book has been released with more to come in 2011. As fans wait for the next installment they can meet up with each other on the website, where they can create their own characters. [snip].


Multi-platform books may not be the future of publishing, but David Levithan, editorial director at Scholastic, says they are part of the future. Both Scholastic and Fourth Story Media have more multi-platform projects in the works. [snip].

"Get[ting] a whole classroom all excited about Mozart's life — we could do the most compelling biography and that would get some kids," he says. "But to do it in the 39 Clues form, it gets so many more. I think we are going to continue to push the boundaries on paper, but also digitally — because the digital possibilities are amazing."



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