Building our children’s ebook service, A Story Before Bed, has been an educational process to say the least. One of the coolest things about it is the role that accidents play in our modest leaps forward. One of my favorite is the creation of our library of free children’s ebooks read by authors and illustrators. We love the work done over at the Children’s Book Council by Robin Adelson and her crack team. Each year they put on the Children’s Choice Book Awards. Last year we agreed to have some of the authors record themselves reading their own books. Everyone was very sweet about it, but it was the first year, and it was a bunch of work. We only managed to get three of the authors to record their stories in our compressed time frame. I knew the result would be good, but I wondered whether it was worth all the work.
And then we launched the page just in time for the awards themselves. Check it out for yourself. And while it just had a smattering of recordings, the response was fantastic! Teachers, librarians, and parents all converged on the page in droves. While children’s book authors will periodically show up at a local bookstore for a reading, having that reading done virtually, and available on demand using A Story Before Bed was novel and super useful. Especially for the educators. It was like having a director’s commentary of a DVD, but for a children’s book to show the students.
Once we saw the response, we knew we had to expand on the concept. And thus, StoryTime at the Reading Room was born. We have authors and illustrators with books on our site record their own commentary filled version of their creation and post it on the site for free. Have an “in-store reading” with a children’s author wherever and whenever you want. There are so many investments we made, and things we have tried that I was absolutely sure were going to pay off big. I would have bet money. And yet, so many of our successes have been quite… well… surprising. I’m prepare to concede that my instincts are off. But even more importantly, I think we know now that the important thing is just to try as many small bets as you can. You never know what customers will respond to.