“Grumpy Cat! Grumpy Cat! More Grumpy Cat, please!” – That’s basically my two-year-old’s review of FarFaria, a new subscription-based children’s storybook app for the iPad. (To translate: she loves it, and especially that story about the grumpy cat.) The app, to be clear, doesn’t just offer the one story – not that my kid seems to care right now – it’s a collection of nearly one hundred stories with more added all the time. And despite being independently sourced and illustrated (or perhaps because of it), the stories are actually really good.
Operating like a Hulu for kids’ books, FarFaria itself is a free download for the iPad, but access to the content requires a subscription of $3.99 per month. However, parents can try out the app for the first month for free. The pricing model, in fact, is a welcome change from what’s typically available in the iTunes App Store in terms of children’s stories. Parents often have to buy books as one-off expenses, such as is the case with iBooks, or apps like Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham or Cat In The Hat, for example, or the pop-up Tale of Peter Rabbit. And many of those individual books cost the same as a month’s worth of FarFaria.
Meanwhile, other kids’ books apps in the free-to-download space, like Read Me Stories, for example, rely on in-app purchases, which leads to the frustrating experience of having to pull the iPad out of the kid’s hands, purchase the content while they scream “iPad!!”, then hand it back. (I did mention she’s two, right? It’s a very demanding age.)
FarFaria, on the other hand, has gone out of its way to make sure that kids can just use the app on their own, without running into pop-up ads, prompts to purchases, or anything else that would slow them down.
As you may have guessed, the name FarFaria is a play on the common fairy tale beginning: “once upon a time, in a land far, far away…,” It’s meant to evoke a sense of being transported to another world, the way that a good story will do.
Given the founders’ backgrounds, it makes sense that they ended up building something for the kids’ entertainment/education market. The creators, Ajay Godhwani and Gennady Borukhovich, were technical consultants for Disney on Family.com, and later Disney Movies online, over the course of several years.
“The product design is about creating an experience of discovery for children,” explains Godhwani of FarFaria’s goals. “We think there’s an emotional sort of connecting when [kids are] unleashed in the library and they’re allowed to pick any story they want. We all had that growing up. We felt like that’s the emotion we wanted to capture, so we went after a design that did that. And we felt that a world and a map is the better experience to create on the iPad.”
The “world” he’s referring to is FarFaria’s map of make-believe lands where stories are grouped by genre. For example, “Picture Point” island, when tapped, takes you into a collection of picture books meant for toddlers. “Fairytale Forest,” “Fable Hills,” and “GoodLand,” are some of the others, with the latter focused lessons like not being greedy, offering to help, etc.
The stories are appropriate for a broad age range, from little ones being read to by parents, up to around seven or eight, when children tend to transition to chapter books.
FarFaria’s content is not homogenous, thanks to the way it’s sourced. The company is working with some 30 story writers and around 75 illustrators, to create the stories and accompanying illustrations. For now, the stories or illustrations are purchased outright for use in the app, but the startup’s founders say they’re looking into different types of licensing deals. In some cases, like in the land called “Classics Grove,” stories are sourced from the public domain, such as is the case with Peter Rabbit, which predates modern copyright law.
The app was soft-launched back in February and is planning to stage its public launch event next week, when it will be adding two stories per day throughout the course of the week. Afterwards, the pace will slow to about three stories per week, occasionally more.
The company plans to soon add a new land with humorous stories (“Loony Lagoon”) plus better filtering tools for parents to find stories by age or type.
FarFaria is the second product from Intuary, the company behind the Verbally app, which aims to help those who can’t speak communicate via the iPad. Since its launch last March, Verbally has been downloaded over 50,000 times – a pretty decent track record for such a niche product.
Intuary is backed by $1 million in angel funding, mostly friends and family, including funding from SimplyHired founders, Anil Godhwani and Gautam Godhwani.
The FarFaria iPad app is available for download here.