A Chain Reaction Begins


The story of creating “Axel’s Chain Reaction” book app dates back to spring 2011. In March, I had visited the Bologna Book Fair —the most important rights negotiation fair for children’s books. I was trying to sell a print project for prescoolers, with the idea of starting up a “book packaging” company (they create book projects from start to finish, and then sell the rights to publishing houses).  

I had an epiphany when I saw a book app for the first time at that fair. Though the interactivity wasn’t particularly relevant, nor did it add much to the story apart from the novelty of animation and sounds (what is often referred to as “gimmicky” interaction), I realized immediately this new medium was an ideal match for me. (If you want to know why, read my Bio

Realizing that the print market was saturated, sales were getting harder, and what publishers were looking for were commercial products they could easily sell in mass markets, I started reading all I could about book apps, and the app market in general. I started collecting some of this news in a Scoop.it page. 


I bought an iPad, and started downloading children’s book apps to see what was on the market. I used several websites to discover new titles, and browsed through the “books” section in the App Store. I undertook a very detailed analysis of every book app I downloaded: story, illustrations, animation, interaction, sound, games, and extra features. 

I started reading and participating in a twitter chat called #Storyappchat (at the time, I lived in Europe, so that meant staying up till 4:00 in the morning in order to chat). I also read and commented on the Moms with Apps website. My conclusion at the time was that there were less than a handful of kids’ book apps that were actually good in all aspects.

I contacted the company I had seen at the fair. They offered around 300€ for a story. Hah! I decided to do this on my own.  (I have to thank author Karen Robertson for providing the first valuable information that set me on the road of self-publishing book apps). I started writing the story that May.

I didn’t imagine that the book app market would become flooded so fast, much less that it would take me more than two years to launch this app. A year after I started this project, I was already hearing bad financial news coming in from app developers. Still, enhanced ebooks did not provide the features and possibilities I envisioned for children’s digital books and reader involvement. I was convinced the right mix of ingredients could make a difference in app sales, in spite of Apple’s much-complained-about discoverability.  

Coming up in our next blog post: The building block of a book app: writing.