Today, practically every child has access to technology. By middle school, most of my classmates had the basic social media platforms: Instagram, Snapchat, Whatsapp. We could meet the celebrities of sunny L.A. right at home in the suburbs of New York. Unfortunately, the technology boom has caused reading to lose its former attraction. Books are no longer the easiest way to detach from the real world. Instead, with an increasing number of digital alternatives, reading has taken a backseat for many, causing families to search for an easier way to build relationships and to reduce their dependence on social media. But finally, the publishing industry might have few innovative solutions. A number of startups have developed platforms through which families can create and share stories. Using variations of personalization, these companies have defied the physical and technological barriers of traditional e-books.
Companies like Zoog and Wonderbly want to build relationships and inspire an often suppressed passion for reading. Fortunately, they have developed techniques to ensure that literature can be a path to connect with those who feel too far away.
Zoog – founded by Matan Guttman and Yoav Oren in 2020 – is one of the newest companies in the industry. The startup aims to provide quality audiobook templates that family members can develop right at home. By just downloading the app, grandparents can harness the power of AI, record various stories, and utilize several forms of animations to record stories. At the center of their product, lies their three main values: family, creative communication, and simple & fun. The true essence of their app is to create a tool to bridge the burdensome generation gap. Along the way, the product promises to be a fun and light way for customers to express themselves.
With the app on your phone, you are given access to two unique stories (with four more on the way). Each story has a designated filter for the narrator. Hailey the Hippo – for example – provides a hippo filter with headphones, personalizing the story. The words of the narration are placed on the screen as well as occasional actions to contribute to the tale. The story, split into chapters, allows customers to record in segments, ensuring that the product is easy for any age group. Just click the red record button, and you are off! This digital approach to storytelling has allowed grandparents to remain connected to their children and also enables kids to develop an interest in listening to stories, as grandparents can read to their grandkids virtually. This also equips grandparents with digital skills by allowing them to become content creators as they record stories.
In addition to simplifying technology, companies are now exploring ways to use personalized stories to strengthen literary skills. Wonderbly – founded in 2014 by Asi Sharabi, Pedro Serapicos, and Tal Oron – focuses on individualizing children’s stories and delivering them in print. The company believes stories are a powerful way to inspire and develop the imagination of young minds. Based in London, Wonderbly has already captured the hearts of over 6 million children around the world. Adding to its success, Wonderbly has won the title of ‘Children’s Publisher of the Year’ at The Booksellers British Book Awards and was lauded for selling over 1 million books across the world in 2020.
The company first built its name with Lost My Name, an extremely successful project to further its personalized children’s stories. Currently, they have sold over 4 million copies and have recently expanded to two sequels: Dared to Dream and Found My Friends. This project, however, has taken individualization a step further. Customers can add the child’s name, develop the characters, and design the protagonist (e.g., gender, hair, skin color). The books allow children to see themselves in their favorite bedtime stories, creating an everlasting bond with literature.
Wonderbly now provides 30 stories (available in 12 languages) through which families can personalize the name and share a message. Books are organized by concept, reading levels, as well as specials (e.g., Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Birthdays). However, the company does not stop there. In addition to variety, Wonderbly develops a sense of trust with their customers by including classic narratives – such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – and provides an online preview to experience the wonder of personalization. Wonderbly promises to deliver hardcopies to your home within 7-10 days and ships to around 150 countries.
Their newest product – Wonderbly Studios – is a platform to share Wonderbly’s expertise in design, tech, and manufacturing. Their first – and currently only – partner is with Wizarding World for “Keys and Curios,” a journal that embraces the magic of Harry Potter. Customers can add their name, house, pet, and several details, personalizing the cover for each Hogwarts house. Like their children’s stories, Wonderly Studios places great emphasis on delivering individualized and quality books to their customers, redefining how we imagine communication and learning.
E-books are most definitely not a new product. They have been around for years, revolutionizing how we read. However, for the first time, the focus is no longer just a way to ease the activity. Instead, companies like Zoog and Wonderbly want to build relationships and inspire an often suppressed passion for reading. Fortunately, they have developed techniques to ensure that literature can be a path to connect with those who feel too far away. Children are rediscovering a love for books instead of falling into the whirlwind of social media. And that is powerful.