04.05.2021 / Knud Wassermann

Each Child Has its Own Personal Book

Customized children's books are nothing new. The first books, in which children slip into the role of the hero and thus become part of the story, were published about 20 years ago. Customized children's books are still very popular, and publishers are reporting a positive performance across the board.

A book is selected on a homepage, the variable data is recorded and the attributes are defined. In a couple days, a child is happy about its own book and is thrilled about the fact that he or she plays the leading role in it. Customized children's books are a typical example of how the internet is creating or enabling new applications in print.

The Champions League
Many parents see customization as an opportunity to get their children excited about reading books and make them into real bookworms sooner or later. If I had known that there were customized children's books from various international football clubs, I might have been able to inspire my son to read a book from his favorite clubs Borussia Dortmund or FC Barcelona. Unfortunately, the time slot is over, now he's 16 and eagerly plays FIFA 2020 on his console. The Spanish publisher My Magic Story has taken up the idea and implemented it under the title "My Magic Team". There are now 18 top European teams to choose from.

Another example of how a publishing house benefits from this trend is Sourcebooks. In 2012, a trial balloon was used to start the customization of children's books via the "Put Me in the Story" platform, which is today one of the company's most successful projects. The major children's book publishers also wanted to participate in this positive development. Ravensburger, for example, invested in the British startup Wonderbly in 2017. 

Gifts with a personal dedication
The company had impressively combined technology and creativity, and the management of Ravensburger announced at the time that they saw a lot of potential in the area of customized children's books. Ravensburger was not wrong in its assessment. Since the acquisition, the company has more than doubled its paid circulation and has now sold nearly 5 million customized children's books around the world. 

Wonderbly started with the title "The Little Boy Or Girl Who Lost Their Name," in which the name of the child it was created for changes. The website now features a wide range of children's books for different age groups and occasions. Since customized children's books are mostly gifts, the books can also be customized with a dedication.



Customization to the power of three
Hooray Studios in Slovenia have taken the degree of customization of their books to the extreme. On the website, not only the name of the child but also the appearance of the figures can be individually designed. The selection criteria range from gender to skin tone, hair color, hairstyle, eye color and shape. 

The protagonist can even be fitted with glasses, and freckles can be conjured up on his face at a click of the mouse. Hooray Studios speaks here of a million possibilities for customization. But siblings and parents can also be incorporated into the story in the same way. This makes every book unique! 

Hidden contents
But the company also makes targeted use of innovations – from digital printing, for example – for storytelling. An invisible, fluorescent color adds an additional arc of suspense to the story. With the book "Glow in the Dark", the young readers can discover a hidden story, which only becomes visible in the dark in combination with a UV lamp. 

With almost one million books sold in 2019, Hooray Studios is now one of the leading suppliers of customized children's books. Responsible for the printing of "Glow in the Dark" is the Muller Martini customer Schätzl Druck & Medien from the German town of Donauwörth, which brought the fluorescent color into play and thus made the new kind of storytelling possible. 

Sharing joy
Another newcomer is Switzerland's Librio. It doesn't have any longstanding experience in publishing, only the idea of developing customized children's books. At the end of 2017, Librio launched its first book "Farbenfroh" (Colorful). Three books later, 40,000 customized books had already been sold off the virtual shelf in mid-2019 – which is more than a respectable success. The company intends to boost sales further by continuing its expansion in Europe.

In addition to quality, the company also aims to impress with sustainable production. One nice thing is that for every book purchased, Librio donates another book to a child. Firstly, to share the joy of reading and, secondly, to give children in other parts of the world access to picture books. Here, Librio is collaborating with the "Room to Read" organization.

The range of customized children's books is now large. However, the demand for new, exciting stories and smart ideas is far from satisfied, which means the opportunities for both publishers and career changers to succeed in this segment are still intact.



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Knud Wassermann
Editor-in-Chief of "Grafische Revue"
 
04.05.2021 Knud Wassermann Editor-in-Chief of Graphische Revue