Storybird Aims To Attack The Last Bastion Of The Printed Word, The Kids’ Bookshelf

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If paper books are going to survive anywhere for the next few years, it’s in our schools and on our kids’ bookshelves. However a company called Storybird has built a platform for kids and adults to build and share picture books in a few minutes. The books use pre-rendered artwork and allow authors to drag and drop pictures and text right into their work. Think of it as fanfic for the Poky Little Puppy set.

As evidenced by my own excellent creation, the quality of the work is mixed at best. However, the artwork available is whimsical and fun and, with enough diligence, you can probably create a fairly readable picture book.

“The idea for Storybird came a few years ago when my son and I created a book for my wife. I wrote, he illustrated—and the final product had me thinking about visual stories and the cloud,” said founder Mark Ury. “I batted this around with Kaye Puhlmann, my cofounder, and in early 2010 we launched an MVP based on the notion of ‘art-inspired’ storytelling: reverse-engineering the picture book by using artwork to trigger stories rather than the other way around.”

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Users can create books and share them online. Authors (and their families) can buy prints of their work and users can buy a $9 monthly membership to get perks like custom covers and the ability to publish their books publicly faster than non-paying writers.

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The company started in 2010 and by 2011 hit 2.5 million stories. “Families, schools and libraries, and tween and teen girls emerged as our core demographic, using the platform for free but increasingly converting to paid members and/or purchasing physical or digital versions of their stories,” said Ury.

The company raised $850,000 in 2012 from Learn Capital and High Line Ventures, among others. Tumblr’s John Maloney is also an advisor and investor. They recently rewrote the app entirely in HTML5 and they’ve just hit 5 million stories among 2 million members – or about 22 million pages of text. The team is headquartered in Toronto and they’re building new premium features and tools for 2013.

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As a wannabe YA author and parent, I’m fascinated by the coming digitalization of the world of kids’ books. Comics and kids’ books are literally the only books we buy anymore and I’ve been trying to pick up some of the classics for them to have over the next few years before we read everything on tablets. Storybird is clearly at the forefront of user-generated story books and it’s interesting to see them become so popular so quickly.