The Netflix monthly subscription model is a hit for movies and TV, and is spreading to music with paid versions of services like Pandora and Spotify. In 2014, it looks like the model could finally catch on for e-books.
On Tuesday, a company called Epic launched a service that offers children a monthly library of over 2,000 children’s books on the iPad, including popular titles like Olivia, the Berenstain Bears and Mr. Popper’s Penguins. The books arrive instantly through streaming, and the service also provides features like personalized recommendations and off-line access. Here are some more titles:
It’s obviously too soon to say how Epic will fare but, as with any monthly subscription service, its fate will depend on how much content it can provide — recall how even Netflix stumbled when studios cut off access to popular shows (and then there was that outcry when Dora the Explorer vanished).
So how well stocked is Epic? I spoke with co-founder Kevin Donahue, a former Googler and YouTube veteran, and he said that the service has more than 2,000 titles to start, and that he expects this number to grow. He also touts the fact that Epic reached a first-of-its-kind deal with major publisher Simon & Schuster, which will supply some of its kids’ titles, and is working with quality independent publishers like Canada’s Kids Can Press.
As for the service itself, which for now is only available on iPad2 and later Apple tablets (Android is coming), I haven’t tried it out but you can see a video below. According to Donahue, he and co-founder Suren Markosian, launched the service to encourage kids to use the tablets for something other than games. While Epic does have some game-like elements, such as badges and ratings, it doesn’t have messaging or social media elements; Donahue said the focus is on making it a safe and enclosed space for reading.
Finally, for Epic to gain traction, it will also have to fend off a little company called Amazon, which has its own kids’ all-you-can-eat service called Kindle Free Time Unlimited.
Donahue hopes his company will have an edge since it’s a pure reading service compared to the multi-media offered by Free Time. (Epic’s outlook will also be helped by an advisory board that includes former executives from Random House and HarperCollins as well as an author and literary agent.)
My book reporter colleague, Laura Owen, will be back from maternity leave in a few weeks and I’m sure she’ll have more to say. In the meantime, here’s the video:
This story has been updated to correct an earlier misspelling of Kevin Donahue’s name.