Mindshapes to launch virtual world for picturebooks

Mindshapes to launch virtual world for picturebooks

Interactive learning company Mindshapes is to launch Magic Town, a virtual world for picture books, later this month. The website is aimed at children aged two to six years, and will include a range of well-known picture-book brands including Winnie the Witch, Elmer and Sir Charlie Stinky Socks.

Deb Gaffin, vice-president of marketing for Mindscapes, said: “Virtual worlds for children already exist but they start at about age seven, and we felt there was a gap in the market for a virtual world for younger children that would help to get them excited about books, as well as providing a safe space to play.”

Magic Town will include 12 different character houses at launch, with each house including animations, games, activities and stories as well as e-books. Children will be able to use parts of the website for free, and will have temporary access to free books.
Further content is available via a subscription of £7.95 per month—including a bank of around 40 stories, some of which have been created specifically for the website by authors including Janey Louise Jones and Ian Whybrow. A further 10 to 15 new stories will be added each month.

Publishers involved in the project so far include Oxford University Press, Hachette Children’s Books, Andersen Press, Egmont, Barefoot Books, Edizione EL, Little Tiger Press and Usborne. They have licensed content to Mindshapes and will receive a percentage of subscriptions. Future developments will include an e-commerce site on which to buy e-books, and an iPad version will be launched in April. A free schools version will be made available in the autumn.

OUP’s head of publishing Liz Cross said: “What we like about Magic Town is that it is rooted in the idea of parents sharing stories with their young children. We also like their approach to animation, which is to use it to move the story forward sympathetically, rather than just bolting on special effects.” Andersen Press’ Sarah Pakenham said their authors were pleased to have a new platform for their books.

Publishers are also confident that the website will deliver print sales. Andrew Sharpe, group rights and digital director for Hachette Children’s, said: “We can see from both parent and publisher perspectives how well-founded the platform will be, and believe we will gain some great exposure and resulting print book sales for our brands.”