"Reading shouldn't be the most boring thing you can do on an iPad. But nor should ebooks be crammed with games." Has Epic Adventures got the balance right?
Epic Adventures is an interactive children's story that uses both print and digital books, as well as carefully designed storylines and characters, to encourage kids to fall in love with reading, and to help parents foster positive digital behaviours such as empathy, tolerance and open-mindedness.
The digital Chapter Book acts as "a controlled gateway" to the digital world for 6-8 year olds, through an adventure involving two brothers, a potato, one magic door and a hippo named Daphne. The 32-page printed Picture Book, aimed at 4-6 year olds, re-enforces the values of the digital story, and helps bring younger children online in an appropriate way. The Picture Book's narrative is based around characters from within the digital book that have crossed through a magic door into our world - and onto the medium of the printed page.
"Epic Adventures has been designed as a multiverse of stories and activities that evolve over time, introducing new worlds and characters to captivate a young reader's mind," Easley says. "Each digital book ties into the next printed one, yet both can exist in their own right as a standalone read."
Easley is insistent that the books are essentially adventure stories, and should not come across as a fable with a heavy moral take-out. "However, there will always be a subtle balance of positive ‘human’ behaviours woven throughout them," he explains. "When combined with the changing perspectives presented through the change in mediums, it provides a backdrop for discussion between adult and child, and an experience that can be shared by all."
We Love Digital is an insight and behaviour driven creative agency based in Maidstone. Easley's team has a decade of experience in telling stories for brands such as Sony Mobile, Yamaha Motor Europe, Turner Broadcasting and Bensons the Juicers.
What’s the gap in the market?
Easley is passionate about the need for better digital literacy in kids, and he believes that books are the perfect gateway for the job. "We realised the need to better integrate digital within the lives of our children," he declares. "This means instilling positive behaviours in our children from an early age , from why and how they use digital, to the way they connect with others online.
"The key is in how they’re introduced to the medium, the content they’re exposed to, and the balance it has with the physical world. Reading shouldn't be the most boring thing you can do on an iPad. But nor should e-books be crammed with games in the hope that kids will become addicted."
Easley's team believe that by applying positive human behaviours within the right digital context, they can create a virtuous cycle that in turn benefits real world relationships and interactions – ensuring that digital becomes an enabler of great things, not just somewhere to escape into.
Success so far?
The team has already written a number of stories, some fully illustrated, and have market tested the first book with a panel of experts, parents and children. Epic Adventures, the first in the series, is due to be released this summer. The accompanying website will reveal more and more information around the stories over the coming months, while a newsletter is already going out to subscribers offering family activities, how-tos and sneak peeks.
"The response to the general approach we’ve taken has been unequivocal and we’ve garnered some fantastic insights that will help us refine the final product further," Easley reports. "We’re just about to take the first steps of our own epic adventure. Let’s see where this path leads us!"
As a digital agency, We Love Digital are pretty comfortable with marketing and promotion, but they're inevitably working to some very tight budgets. "The next few months will take a lot of energy and focus in getting the right word out there to the right people," Easley says. "If we continue to ride the buzz that this project has created within the agency, then this isn’t a challenge at all, but a great big opportunity."
Epic Adventures is intended to be just the first in a series of products that will help parents build a foundation of positive digital behaviours within their families. "With a highly extensible product ecosystem and a very exciting roadmap ahead of us, we’d ideally like to have a raft of products on the market within a few years - some digital, some physical, some mixed – all anchored to a series of books that children can grow with, a multiverse they keep coming back to," Easley explains.
Advice to other publishing entrepreneurs?
"Everything can be an Epic Adventure if you have the guts to go for it. Get advice from everyone you know, don’t be afraid to network, and take on feedback. The world always has and always will be looking for great stories."