Carlton is to publish its most expensively originated book on Super Thursday (4th October), an augmented reality (AR) novel for children. The Ghostkeeper’s Journal Field Guide, written and produced by Carlton’s digital director Japhet Asher (pictured), is an immersive adventure for readers aged 10 and up, priced at £14.99.
The book builds on Carlton’s AR range, with the publisher having sold more than four million copies of such titles around the world, including Jurassic World, Bugs and Alien, through retail or coedition partners. It also represents a change for the mainly non-fiction publisher—Asher said the title was the “first ever augmented reality powered novel”.
The first in the Sprung (Society of the Pursuit of the Reputedly Undead Namely Ghosts) series, The Ghostkeeper’s Journal is a 32,000-word novel and illustrated book, where the AR enables readers to uncover mysteries and solve the disappearance of Agamemnon White, head of ghostkeeping. Developed by digital agency Scary Beasties, the AR is accessed via a “Ghost-o-Matic” app. More than 250,000 copies have been pre-sold into the US, with coedition deals arranged in France, Spain, Romania and Greece to date.
Carlton’s AR books have sold fewer copies through Nielsen BookScan in the UK than elsewhere with the rump of sales made in the US, Asia, China and some European markets. Backed by an “ambitious” marketing campaign, and with Four Colman Getty brought in to handle the publicity, Asher is keen to change this. “We really want this to be the breakthrough in the UK,” said Asher. “Pokémon GO changed the way consumers understood AR. Some retailers have been slow to pick this up, but educating consumers is very much our job. Some of our coedition partners have been more effective than we have, and we’ve learned from that. We are putting the largest push behind this that Carlton has ever done. We believe in it, and the scale of the orders we’ve already received confirm our confidence is not misplaced.”
Turning the page
There has also been a shift in what Carlton has done with the AR, focusing less on accurate depictions of creatures and more on the animation and interactivity. “The quality of the AR is different, to a degree, in that we have focused on the storytelling and experience and a bit less on making the models as sophisticated as we could. We’ve optimised these for the storytelling, and we’ve learned how to tie them better to the page,” said Asher.
Asher said he was interested in bringing the screen generation back to books, as well as helping reluctant readers engage with the page. “Children with different reading skills will find a way into this, and making sure the book works for those kids at different levels is important. Overall, children will discover that paper with words on it can be just as exciting as screens.”
He added: “Some see screen usage among children as the enemy of books—I see it as an opportunity to combine the best visceral aspects of the physical book with the immense creative possibilities of digital.”
Asher will showcase the new book at The Bookseller Children’s Conference on 24th September.