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Long considered nothing more than a gimmicky fad, it turns out that augmented reality (AR) is actually alive and well. At least that’s the case when it’s associated with a brand as large as Pokemon.

By now you’ve undoubtedly heard all the Pokemon Go stories and maybe you’ve even dodged a player or two, overly-focused on their phone while embarking on a virtual hunting expedition. On the surface it’s nothing more than another time-wasting game but I believe it offers some very important lessons for publishers.

Let’s start with the hybrid, print-plus-digital opportunity. Recent reports indicate ebook sales have plateaued and growth has shifted back to the print format. There are a number of underlying reasons for these trends including higher ebook prices as well as the adult coloring book phenomenon. But as I’ve said before, publishers need to stop thinking about print and digital as an either/or proposition. Some customers prefer print while others lean towards digital. Many readers are in both camps, switching between print and digital based on genre, pricing, convenience, etc.

Most publishers overlook the fact that digital can be used to complement and enhance print. Skeptical? Have a look at a few of the demos Layar offers on this page.

Stop and think about how something like Layar could be used to bring your static pages to life. Maybe you publish how-to guides, print is your dominant format and you’ve always wondered how you could integrate videos with the text. You’ve tried inserting urls but very few readers bother typing them in. QR codes are an option but they’re clunky and take up precious space on the page. Why not use AR to virtually overlay those videos on the page without having to dump in a bunch of cryptic-looking urls or QR codes?

Are you looking to engage your readers in the book’s/author’s social stream? Here’s your chance to integrate them virtually using a platform like Layar.

Better yet… have you always wanted to know who all those nameless, faceless consumers are who bought your print book from third-party retailers like Amazon or Barnes & Noble? Here’s an opportunity as a publisher or author to initiate a conversation directly with your readers. Add an Easter egg to the print edition where readers can receive a reward via an AR-powered offer; you will, of course, ask for each reader’s name and email address before handing out those rewards.

This approach to marrying digital to print is totally unobtrusive. Print readers who don’t want to bother with their phones can continue reading the book without interruption. Those customers interested in learning more, interacting with authors or uncovering special publisher offers will likely see the value of connecting their phones with the printed page.

The possibilities are endless. So the next time you see a Pokemon Go player wandering aimlessly be sure to thank them for helping identify new ways of distributing, promoting and enriching content.

Joe WikertJoe Wikert is director of strategy and business development at Olive Software. This post was originally published on his blog, ‘Joe Wikert’s Digital Content Strategies‘, where he writes opinion pieces on the rich content future of publishing.

interactive books

Evan Jones is the founder of Stitch Media, an interactive media production services company focused on telling stories using new technology and timeless techniques. Evan is also the creator of Together Tales, a new platform which brings reading, games and real-life activities together. Here Stephanie Cox interviews him.

1) Tell us a little bit about your background and career

Early in my career I became obsessed with Alternate Reality Games. ARGs are a style of narrative that really couldn’t exist before the internet, because they rely on the audience as investigators who connect different types of media together to make a complete story. They’re also intensely interactive and the best ones consider the audience as collaborators – their theories and solutions inspire the creative team working behind the scenes.

I’ve had the good fortune to collaborate with incredibly talented people on projects across every genre. We’ve worked in comedy, drama, documentary, horror, science fiction, children’s, lifestyle – but always with an interactive point of view. Stitch Media is the company that you call when you want to push the boundaries. I’m always working hard to stay ahead of the curve on new technology but more importantly the media trends that are shifting around us.

2) Together Tales – what’s the premise?

Together Tales are Adventure Kits that combine physical books and artifacts with interactive challenges. Parents bring these stories to life as an insider working with the author to plant clues and create coincidences.

For kids aged 8-10 reading the adventures, it’s like the whole story surrounds you. You are a character in the books and your actions end up saving the day. We’ve had a lot of feedback that this product is perfect for ‘reluctant readers’ because it’s broken into short chapters that connect with activities both offline and online.

For parents, it’s like having a creative sidekick for those moments where you want to want to play along with your kids but don’t always have the time or energy to make it up. Adventure Kits give you all the tools you need and simple instructions via email to prompt you at the perfect moment. You’re playing alongside your kids with a cheat sheet from the author.

together tales

3) What made you, as a media and TV professional, look at the idea of interactive books? How did the idea and the concept of Together Tales come about?

We didn’t set out to make an interactive book. Our company never starts with the technology first. It’s that old adage “When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” Instead we started with a question: “How can recreate some of our fondest memories of childhood?”

We loved reading books, of course – books are imagination fireworks where you can do anything at all. We also loved simple games like scavenger hunts and puzzles. But the secret ingredient is the name of our product – it was those moments we spent together.

Together Tales is a platform to combine all of these things. We rely upon an ‘Insider’ who truly knows the reader. We use the shorthand of parents but it could easily be grandparents or that cool uncle or an amazing teacher. The point is that our adventures come to life in through others – they are the ones who personalise a letter online, print it out and tuck it under the child’s pillow because they received an automated email yesterday explaining that the Magician will be answering their dream questions tomorrow. It’s a system to make more of those memorable moments by connecting them together with a story.

4) What kind of success have you enjoyed so far?

Our first success was convincing a jury to give us the CMF Experimental Fund – it allowed us to build the technology and test the concept until we got it right. The one thing we needed after that was the money to pay for our first print run. We created four Adventure Kits in our first year and launched the concept on Kickstarter – that was really when Together Tales took off. We’ve shipped hundreds of kits out to families now and the response has been incredible. The five-star reviews on Amazon have really inspired us – parents talk about how excited their kids get about reading the stories and their adventures.

It’s also been a huge boost for us to be recognised by our industry. We were nominated for the BookTech prize in the UK this year and for the Canadian Screen Award for Best Original Interactive Project. These endorsements help a great deal in promoting sales.

5) Anything that has been particularly challenging?

Our biggest challenge is everyone’s biggest challenge – discoverability. Our target demographic is parents with 8-10 year old kids and I’m one of them. It’s a very busy and distracted group of customers and we don’t have a marketing budget to spend yet. We know that families love the product but we haven’t yet mastered the way we reach that audience.

6) Why do you think there’s a market for this kind of publishing?

Publishing is not going away. Yes it’s changing but all of the media industries shift when a new paradigm appears. We know this is a crowded market but we feel that Together Tales is something truly new and will strike a chord with the right type of customer.

Together Tales is also built to empower authors to write their own Adventure Kits. Our platform expands with every new book as we build a library of games and technology which are reused in subsequent stories. They’re also not tied to a particular platform. We’re not thinking about the issues of paper vs tablets because we use them all in the way they were intended. Media consumption habits for us aren’t an either/or proposition, they’re all potential for us.

7) Have you found that you have been able to reach out easily to children who may not be particularly enthusiastic about reading?

Together Tales is very accessible because the story is portioned out. The child never sees a huge book because the story is divided into chapters and interactive moments. The first chapter looks like a comic book, but once you’ve read it you’re hooked. The characters need your help and a game begins. It’s not hard to convince kids to play games but when the game is over you want to see how it affected the story. That’s when the second chapter magically appears (thanks parents!) and the cycle continues.

To read the full interview, head over to Stephanie’s blog: Words are my Craft.

 

 

Mark Folkenberg Portrait SquareMark Folkenberg is the Founder and CEO of Books & Magic. After years as a professional game developer, Mark and his team have spent the last three years developing their concept and first product.

1) What exactly is Books & Magic?

Books & Magic is a 6-person cocktail of creative minds handpicked from the computer game and book publishing industries, all with a common vision of creating a new genre for books. We are highly inspired by the classical fairy tales, and being located in Copenhagen, we decided to take on the original fairy tale of ‘The Little Mermaid’ by Hans Christian Andersen for our first book project.

Our magical augmented reality (AR) book visualises the universe within the text, directly on top of the pages of the book. Simply view the book through our app and the hidden universe is revealed right in front of you.

2) What problem does it solve?

We’ve managed to make the AR experience so convincing and meaningful that it feels like a magical experience. We capture the interest of children and adults by offering a way to actually explore the universe of the book. Fire cannons, unlocking chests or helping the little mermaid on her way are some of the hidden elements that the reader can find and engage with.

Intentionally, the app doesn’t tell the story – for that you would need to read the book. All the raised questions from exploring the universe and the curiosity of finding more hidden elements drives the player into becoming a reader in search of answers.

3) Who is your target market?

The story is the timeless original fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen, and everyone aged 5+ can be entertained by our magical book. We’ve designed the games with 3 levels of increasing difficulty, so the youngest can play the game which is also challenging the older children.

The book and app can be used solo, each in their own right, however, when they’re used together, the magical book experience is a perfect way to increase the interest for the physical book as well as a great opportunity for parents and children to spend time together.

The product’s main target is parents or grandparents, who wish to share a great story and the original classic with the youngest, to use our digital universe to introduce them to the physical book and perhaps even open their eyes to the magic within the book universe.

4) What results do you hope to see over the next few years?

We hope to reach the most of the UK and the rest of the English speaking countries with the message about this new genre, to actually offer children an alternative and less passive use of their mobile devices.

We already offer online purchase and free world wide shipping, but we are very aware that a many parents and grandparents prefer to buy their books in the local bookstore. So we hope to be able to offer this in a broad range of countries during the next year or two.

5) What will be next for Books & Magic?

As a young company, Books & Magic is born out of the digital age. We are a highly creative and very technical company, much more than the average book publisher. We believe in the book format and our take on the digital age is not to dismantle the physical book, but to enhance it.

We embrace the physical separation of the book and the mobile devices and are already working on the next book in the series. A third classical fairy tale book is in the pipeline too. But, we also have something else on the drawing board that I won’t spoil here. You will all have to wait and see. 🙂

Adrian HonAdrian Hon is the Founder and Chief Creative at Six to Start, an award-winning online games company. Working with the likes of Penguin Books, Disney and the BBC, their transmedia experiences have engaged millions of people in new ways. Adrian originally trained as a neuroscientist at Cambridge and Oxford and also writes for The Telegraph about technology. So, basically, he really knows his stuff! BookMachine has peered into Adrian’s world of augmented reality and this is what we found…

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