Story-telling and story-selling. Key trends from Bologna Children’s Book Fair


As the borders between playing, reading and learning are narrowing and new forms of storytelling get in the hands of new generations, children behavior towards digital technologies keeps evolving, affecting products, strategies and workflows. But how? What’s the relationship between children and digital reading? Which are the trends in terms of discovery, pricing, and activities in children publishing? How do the publishing and ICT world collaborate in order to offer the most engaging, interactive and fulfilling experience possible?

To answer these questions on March 26 took place in Bologna ‘Story-telling and story-selling. Digital kids between transmedia experiences and market trends‘, the Masterclass organized by TISP, AIE, Bologna Children’s Book Fair in collaboration with Editech.

Cristina Mussinelli (AIE) introduced the event and the first panel that provided some insights into the children’s book market and its consumers in the digital age.

Ann Betts, Managing Director Client Services, Nielsen Book International, showed that overall the children’s book market is more robust than the total market in almost all the countries where a Nielsen BookScan service operates. In both the UK and Italy performance was driven by picture books and activity books for the younger age group (0-5 years) and children’s non fiction for the UK and both children’s fiction and non fiction for 10 – 13 year olds in Italy.

As for children’s activities and behaviour the key findings are that a third of children read books to themselves everyday – only watching TV sees more participation and that three in five children read to themselves weekly while half are read to weekly – and that reading is declining overall while game apps and YouTube are on the rise. Most children are still heavy/medium readers, though occasional/non-readers are on the rise (reading is taking a hit from other activities); the increase in occasional/non-readers is especially true of those aged 11+.

As for devices, children access/use of tablets doubled in 2013. The majority of children uses devices to play games and older children have more diverse usages. The favoured device for digital reading has changed: the tablet has taken over for most age groups except the oldest (still using mostly e-readers). One third of reading children have read books digitally but the majority still prefers print.

As for discovery, libraries and schools drive discovery among families with bookshops, supermarkets and online book retailers following close behind. The older and more a child reads the more diverse are their routes of discovery.

Masterclass StorytellingRoberta Franceschetti (Mamamò) offered a presentation of the Italian #Natigitali 2014, a survey promoted by AIE, FattoreMamma and Mamamò, in collaboration with AIB (Associazione Italiana Biblioteche) and Filastrocche.it. Aim of survey was the analyis of parents’ attitude towards new technologies and reading,  the inclination to let kids use new devices for extra study purposes, the relationship between reading printed and digital books, the sources of information and the sales channels of printed and digital books. The survey was distributed online  in January and February 2014 and was addressed to parents and librarians. 910 answers were collected and 696 of them – excluding the librarians – were analyzed, providing an overview of the attitudes of the most innovative part of Italian parents.

Parents’ inclination to let kids read digital books was 5% higher than last year. 16,1% of children reads everyday and at least once a week digital books while 72,6% reads everyday printed books. Print is preferred mostly before going to sleep and is regarded as a strengthening bond between children and parents while digital is preferred for entertainment, baby-sitting and convenience. The most important elements of digital books are the learning side, the entertainment, the boost to imagination and indipendence. As for the parents’ attitudes, digital is expected to have technological, multimedia and editorial value. ‘Non-digital parents’ don’t read digital because of the lack of devices and of occasions. Overall, ‘digital-adverse parents’ are declining and ‘digital  parents’ don’t see much difference with print: the story is what really matters. Some fear excess of screen time while the discovery is linked to word of mouth, booksellers, blogs. Reviews and images have a great influence in buying digital. As for the willingness to spend, it’s much higher in print.

The second part of the Masterclass was devoted to case studies where publishing houses and ICT companies discussed issues and strengths of their partnership, the competences involved and innovative products highlighting the results achieved through their collaboration.

Irene Angelopulos (Mubo) and Giulio Caperdoni (Vidiemme) presented GoogleGlass4Museum, a prototype app designed to give an interactive tour of the Hall of 500 in the Palazzo Vecchio (Florence). The project is the result of the synergy between the digital-first publisher Mubo and the ICT company Vidiemme which, a year ago, decided to focus on new technologies and devices, like wearables. At the core of the project, there’s storytelling, specially designed for the specificities of the device and used to create a metaphor for the user, drawing attention to the mysteries related to  the lost fresco of Leonardo Da Vinci’s Battaglia of Anghiari. The goal is to let people immerse themselves in the story in a more meaningful way through this metaphor, providing a bigger engagement . The project uses also gaming approach like levels, hidden items, award of prizes. As for technology, a great focus has been devoted to the optimization for Google Glass and user experience with the idea to ‘make the device super-powers fit for user’. The device is not coneived as an end in itself but as a bridge between the users (young adults) and the reality.

Mike Gaunt (GoMadKids) and Bobby Thandi (Dubit) presented Turmali from GoMadKids, a project which will be officially launched on June 2014. Starting point was the the assumption that kids don’t like educational games, parents do. If 350 million kids are online today playing games, how to make games that kids like and parents find useful? The solution proposed, Turmali, is a game with a story, composed of 130 short stories of 6-7,000 words each. Beside a a safe chatting place to other children playing around the world, Turmali provides a series of short cartoon strips with a little text to encourage players to search e-books connected to the story as they play the game. Each individual story is available as e-book. 

Masterclass partecipantsHarish Agrawal presented MagicBox, providing an overview of the  trends in K-12 education. Since market forces publishers to convert their content into distributable digital format, mid-size publishers are struggling to showcase their digital product to buyers, to manage licensing and digital rights and to manage distribution on different devices and formats. The disruption is caused by the arrival of tablets and smartphones in hands of children, by the technology expected to reduce cost and increase quality of education – yet to be proven but governments investing a lot in it, so schools want digital content. K-12 trends in education show that digital content keeps growing and tablets are widely adopted while digital textbooks are expected to be cheaper. For the publishing industry the problem is that the ROI is unkwown and the digital strategy is not defined and unclear. The solution proposed by Magic Box is a cloud based mobile publishing platform for K12 publishers which allows to sell digital and non digital products through a branded e-commerce store, distribute digital content on different devices and analyze and review usage of the content.

Arianna Giorgia Bonazzi presented Timbuktu, a children’s media company which aims to stimulate children to learn through experiences. Timbuktu’s flagship product is the the subscription-based Timbuktu Magazine, a monthly magazine for children aged 6-10, just awarded with the prize for Best Children’s Magazine of the Year. The mission is to nurture a generation of girls and boys who are more confident, courageous, and critical – giving them a real opportunity to become creative thinkers and active citizens of the 21st century. Discover, laugh, play, inspire are the keywords of Timbuktu, which can count on a constellation of other apps, like Timbuktu Pizza and Timbuktu Pasta, based on the same group of characters that live in the magazine. Great emphasis was devoted to the relationship with children, carried out especially during the Timbuktu Camps, hands-on workshops where children are faced with complex design challenges that help them develop critical thinking, creative expression, and learning skills through mobile technology.

#Natidigitali 2014 presentation is available HERE

GoogleGlass4Museums presentation is available HERE

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