This year's FutureBook Live conference will see five exciting book-related startups slug it out in a live pitch-off for the BookTech Startup of the Year 2018 crown. Three of our finalists - Commaful, The Pound Project and Bookabees - have already been profiled. This week we continue the series with Bookful, an AR app for children's books.
Bookful is an app designed to bring books to life using augmented reality technology. "We're starting with children's books, and working to encourage children to read more by bringing books into screen time, and making reading more engaging for those who find it a challenge," reports c.e.o Benny Arbel.
Bookful's parent company, Inception, has created VR and AR experiences for brands around the world such as Conde Nast, Universal, Grey Goose Vodka and Andrew Lloyd Weber's Really Useful Group. The team, with offices in Tel Aviv, London and New York, is made up of technology and creative veterans including Arbel, a serial entrepreneur with a background in the content industry; c.m.o. Dana Porter Rubinshtein, who has previously led marketing and strategy for Microsoft in Israel and Amdocs globally; and Effi Wizen, founder of Gravity Studios and visual effects specialist.
What's the gap in the market?
"One day, one of our founders was complaining about how much screen time his kids have, and how uninterested they seem in reading," Arbel explains. "One by one, much of the rest of the team chimed in with stories of their own. Studies show that children are reading less, and that they feel less connected with books, and we as parents are struggling to minimize screen time for our kids."
Already working in the AR field, the Bookful team saw the potential of the technology to grab children's attention - and turn it towards books. "We wanted to use the immersiveness and interactivity of AR to provide an engaging and magical experience to get kids excited about books and reading," Arbel asserts.
Success so far?
Bookful is currently in its soft-launch phase, preparing to launch publically on November 7. "So far we've had amazing feedback from our test users," Arbel reports. "We've had a lot of success with publishers, working directly with them to bring their books to life including Penguin Random House. We already have the largest collection of AR experiences that we've seen in one place, and the app and our library of books is growing all the time."
AR is an ever-evolving technology, so the team admit they have to work hard to stay on top of the changes and developments.
"To build the largest and best collection of AR books available!" The team is also working on building out their content platform, so that animators all over the world without any coding experience can create AR animations and experiences.
Advice to other publishing entrepreneurs?
"To stay loyal to what we all love about traditional books, their stories and their characters. Don't make things too gimmicky or cliched. Remember what made books magical for all of us and work to enhance that, as opposed to fighting it."