California-based children’s e-book subscription service Epic! has been talking with Publishers Weekly about its recent rapid growth as more and more users find and take advantage of the service. Not to be confused with HarperCollins’s “Epic Reads” program for teenagers, Epic launched in 2014 and has been expanding rapidly. Co-founder Kevin Donahue told PW it had experienced 400% growth in 2015 and expects the same or more for this year.
The service costs $4.99 per month, carries over 14,000 titles from Big Five and smaller publishers, and is aimed at kids 12 and younger. It provides unlimited access to a curated collection of content. It can be read via iOS, Android, and Apple TV devices, as well as via the web. The service can also make personalized reading recommendations to kids based on how well they’ve liked books they read already, and create profiles to keep track of what they’ve read so far.
Epic has chalked up more than 40 million books read so far, with over 250,000 new titles read every day. This is not too surprising given that the app is now being used in more than 70% of US elementary schools. It also has the advantage of not having to deal with Big Five publishers as much as an adult book service would have to. Instead, it has made deals with many different publishers while keeping an eye on its quality standards.
The article then goes on to look at all the other children’s e-book services that have sprung up to compete with Epic, such as Amazon FreeTime Unlimited (currently available on Amazon devices only), Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s Curious World, Reading Rainbow’s Skybrary Family and School, and Disney’s DisneyLife.
Donahue ascribes the platform’s success to giving kids control over what and how they read, and notes that success will benefit the entire publishing industry by helping to develop a new generation of readers. It certainly seems like a good idea to me to get kids interested in reading when they’re young so those habits will carry through when they get older. As I’ve noted before, reading is facing increasing competition from more-bandwidth-intensive audiovisual media, so we need to get new readers started while they’re still young.