Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Are you ready for A STORY BEFORE BED?

Get comfy. Let me introduce you to Hillel Cooperman, co-founder of A Story Before Bed,™ a company that formats picture books into wonderful recordable ebooks so that anyone with a webcam can record themselves (with both audio & video) reading to a child. These personalized ebooks are then sent to as many children as you’d like so that they can read them over and over.

I discovered A Story Before Bed when Hillel contacted me after seeing my post on Linkedin about my interest in getting my out-of-print-books into many ebook formats. He introduced his company to me through an email and after I spent a short time on the A Story Before Bed website, I knew I wanted to be part of it. Not only was the site attractive and easy to use, the books offered included some fantastic individual titles such as Sweet Pea Dreams or What Emily Saw as well as books from publishers such as Charlesbridge and Chronicle. In addition, I was impressed by their generous gift of over 100,000 recordable books to military men and women so that they can stay connected to their children.

Shortly after, we spoke on the telephone to work out specifics and within minutes I knew I wanted to work with this guy, as midway through our conversation he stopped and said, “Your accent reminds me of home.” Turns out we both come from the Boston area and after talking family and good bakeries we were back to seal the deal. Soon I had four of my books included in the A Story Before Bed Library with more to come.

Hillel generously agreed to be interviewed for the eisforbook blog. Below are Hillel’s answers to my questions.

In a paragraph tell us when you started A Story Before Bed. Why? How? What is your position- What did you do before this venture? Staff?
A few years ago I tried to videotape my parents reading books to my kids. My parents live on the east coast while my family lives in Seattle. Once I saw the videos I realized that the books were hard to see, so I tried scanning in the books and compositing them with the video. Never mind that this is something most people wouldn’t be able to do… it was an enormous amount of work and the results were less than great. Halfway through the first book I thought to myself that there must be a better way. Since I make software for a living, and I know that software can be used to solve problems just like this one, the path before me was clear.

I am one of three co-founders of Jackson Fish Market, the company behind A Story Before Bed. Together the three of us, and our extended family of co-workers have been working hard to make A Story Before Bed a great experience for children and the adults who love to read to them.

How many titles? How does it work?
We have over 300 titles and our library is constantly growing. Customers subscribe to our site and then can record a video of themselves reading a book. Seeing is believing in terms of understanding how this works so check out a finished recording here: http://www.astorybeforebed.com/demo/frogprincess

Once you’re happy with the recording, you can save it and share it with family members. The recordings can even be downloaded to our iPad/iPhone app for viewing. And if you have an iPad2 you can record the stories right on the iPad2 as it has a front-facing camera. The recorded stories will synchronize back up to our website as well.

An author/illustrator has original book content (art & text) or existing content from an out-of-print picture book (for which they own all rights). They want to be included in A STORY BEFORE BED. How can they work with you?
We LOVE helping  Authors and Illustrators with out-of-print find new paying audiences for their books. We’re looking for picture books primarily. We don’t require any exclusivity or lock-in. We’re very friendly to rights holders and ultimately want to make a business that will be a win for everyone. Get in touch with us at publishers [at] astorybeforebed [dot] com and we’d be happy to discuss details.

What has been your biggest challenge? 
Once we educate customers on what the service does they almost always get very excited about it. But because it’s a new concept it takes some time to explain. We have created a virtual reading room of authors and illustrators reading their own books as a great way to showcase the power of A Story Before Bed. So that’s one effort aimed at educating people on what we do. We’re working on others as well.

In this fast changing ebook industry what have you learned so far? 
The market for children’s books isn’t going away. And if anything, it will only grow. But authors and illustrators have to recognize that they are in a world where powerful tools are available to empower them. The days are over when they could rely on other people to run their business. Ultimately, artists in any medium now need to be business-people themselves. And once they have this outlook they can take advantage of countless services to help them get the word out and sell their creations to the world (of which we’re one of course).

If you had the opportunity, what would you have done differently?
I think it’s too early to know that. But I know I would have contacted you to license your books earlier. :)

Look into the future. Where do you think this ebook industry is going?
Ultimately I believe that because of technology children’s books and books in general are going to become an even bigger business with a larger and more passionate audience. The publishers and rights holders who understand this are diving into this space with an eye for adventure and experimentation, and they will have a leg up as the industry grows.

Anything else you would like to add? 
We are a great way for published authors and illustrators to create a revenue stream from their out-of-print titles. There’s no reason that new generations of children shouldn’t enjoy these creations, and we’re happy to help make that happen.

Thank you Hillel!  Please wander around A Story before Bed website and preview some books. And for extra pleasure- here is the link of me reading my book Easter Bunny in Training to my little cousins. (OK—don't laugh—it was made for the ears and eyes of a 2 & 4 yr old!...and excuse the Boston accent…some people do find it endearing!)

Posted by Maryann Cocca-Leffler

6 comments:

  1. Thanks, Maryann and Hillel! That was an interesting interview. I love the concept of having loved ones and friends be able to read to children from far away. It was fun to see and hear you reading the book, Maryann... there was still something intimate about it, despite it being just a small video. I think children will love seeing someone they know reading to them. This site feels like it is truly made for children!

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  2. Loved hearing you read your book, Maryann. This is an inspired idea--and you made me want to look into it further.
    Phillis

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  3. Phillis- Go for it. Hillel would love to hear from others who want offer their books on his site. contact:

    publishers@astorybeforebed.com

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  4. How long has this been out there? I looked for something like this back in 2009 and wasn't able to find anyone who had that ability. Amazing!

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