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Kindle-only children's series launched

Intellectual property agency 1454 has developed a new interactive children's adventure series that will be published exclusively on the Kindle worldwide. It is thought to be the first time a children's series has been produced solely for digital release.

BookSurfers, written by the children's writer David Gatward, is aimed at nine to 12-year-olds and is based on the classic novels Treasure Island and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The four Booksurfers, Ryan, Jake, Becca and Harriet use a bespoke digital gadget called The Nautilus to jump into classic adventure stories with the reader able to use hyperlinks to connect to the corresponding points in the original classic.

The classic novels are bundled in with the price of the new book, meaning readers can explore both books as the narrative unfolds. Two further titles based on Robin Hood and A Christmas Carol are also slated for release later this year.

Creative director Zoe Watkins said the series had been developed with the Kindle platform in mind. Watkins said: "We wanted to engage kids with the classics in a way they hadn't been before, and so it seemed to us that digital offered a new way of doing that. The books work very specifically on the Kindle with hyperlinks between the new adventure and original classic text. The idea really lends itself to digital and adds a whole extra layer of interactivity."

The books will be priced at £4.59, though Amazon.co.uk is already selling the first two for £3.67. The agency 1454 first began to work on the concept two years ago: "the digital market wasn't that developed, but as we've got closer to publication the market has really expanded", said Watkins.

Watkins declined to divulge the financial terms with Amazon, which has a five-year exclusive arrangement on the series. Watkins said the agency would also look at selling traditional print rights further down the line, once the series has been developed, as well as foreign and film rights.

Watkins said the series did not have to sell in "Harry Potter-type numbers to be a viable exercise", and that the intention was to keep going after the first four editions have been published. She said the exclusive arrangement with Amazon was a "natural" way for the new books to be launched" and done for "good commercial reasons".

In a blog written for FutureBook, Watkins added: "We are not by any means anti traditional print publishing—we love the book in all its many forms—but Booksurfers was always intended to be launched digitally because of the natural synergy between the reader experience and the Booksurfers’ own use of their Nautilus device.

"Harnessing the functionality of Kindle enables us to create the interactivity which we hope will draw young readers into classic books in a way which is fun, intuitive and user-friendly, and gives us the opportunity to reach a worldwide market."

Gatward is best known for his The Dead series published in the UK by Hodder.

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In one sense, it's nice to know that my Kindle will do more 'stuff,' although the value in making a marvelous kids adventure like Treasure Island, "interactive' is dubious. It's a bit like putting a picture frame around a pretty girl. Exactly what are the benefits of these added hyperlinks? When kids read a story, they want to read the story itself not see it gussied up by dorks of far lesser talent than Robert Louis Stevenson. Kids have enjoyed Treasure Island for over 130 years without this fluff. Do they really need it? Do they even want it?

But what bothers me most is the fact that this series will be "published exclusively on the Kindle worldwide" for at least five years. Almost everyone in the new publishing industry, particularly Amazon, seems to be into exclusivity. Digital books were supposed to open up the world of books. In the greedy little hands of Apple and Amazon, ebooks are narrowing that world. Examine either Apple or Amazon's publishing contracts, and you'll see that readers, least of all children readers, are of far less important to those behemoths than what their lawyers and corporate bean-counters are thinking. Both care far less about content than asserting control over availability pricing.

Even the one exception, Google, proves the rule. It the original version of the now defunct Google Book Settlement, it wanted to use legal shenanigans to abrogate the U.S. copyright for every out-of-print but in-copyright book on the planet, whatever the original language. That set-aside would only benefit Google. No other publisher would gain that "exclusivity."

As technology advances, there's far less to gush about than many think and much to criticize.

In one sense, it's nice to know that my Kindle will do more 'stuff,' although the value in making a marvelous kids adventure like Treasure Island, "interactive' is dubious. It's a bit like putting a picture frame around a pretty girl. Exactly what are the benefits of these added hyperlinks? When kids read a story, they want to read the story itself not see it gussied up by dorks of far lesser talent than Robert Louis Stevenson. Kids have enjoyed Treasure Island for over 130 years without this fluff. Do they really need it? Do they even want it?

But what bothers me most is the fact that this series will be "published exclusively on the Kindle worldwide" for at least five years. Almost everyone in the new publishing industry, particularly Amazon, seems to be into exclusivity. Digital books were supposed to open up the world of books. In the greedy little hands of Apple and Amazon, ebooks are narrowing that world. Examine either Apple or Amazon's publishing contracts, and you'll see that readers, least of all children readers, are of far less important to those behemoths than what their lawyers and corporate bean-counters are thinking. Both care far less about content than asserting control over availability pricing.

Even the one exception, Google, proves the rule. It the original version of the now defunct Google Book Settlement, it wanted to use legal shenanigans to abrogate the U.S. copyright for every out-of-print but in-copyright book on the planet, whatever the original language. That set-aside would only benefit Google. No other publisher would gain that "exclusivity."

As technology advances, there's far less to gush about than many think and much to criticize.