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TOC Bologna round-up

In celebration of International Children’s Book Day, we have a round-up of last month’s inspiring Tools of Change event at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair:

355 delegates from thirty-four countries came together for the second annual Tools of Change Bologna to discuss the art, craft and business of digital storytelling. Attendee numbers were up 65 per cent on last year’s inaugural TOC Bologna, with most delegates coming from Italy (unsurprisingly), Brazil, the Netherlands, the USA and Australia.

With four inspiring keynote speeches and twenty-two thought-provoking and informative breakout sessions, featuring up to four speakers each, the range of debate was vast – but the key messages thrown up again and again centred on the ongoing debates of discoverability, branding and platforms.

Highlights included:

The inspiration that is Dominique Raccah of Sourcebooks: her enthusiasm to grow and develop the ebook model, which she has been such an advocate of, is catching… We’re looking forward to finding out more about the bedtime story platform hinted at.

The frankness brought to the debate about discoverability by Hermés Piqué of Barcelona-based Robot Media. In a standing room only session, Hermés gave straightforward and helpful advice to the many publishers and app developers in the room. The most important part of your app? The icon – give it the same time and thought as you would a book cover – after all it does the same job.

The openness of Andrew Sharp of Hachette Children’s Books – sales of apps and ebooks for this major UK children’s publisher made up 2 per cent of revenue for 2011 – with 600 ebooks and three apps currently on its digital list. The publisher expects this to develop exponentially through 2012. Worth remembering – particularly in the UK where there isn’t currently a mass market equivalent of Barnes and Noble’s Nook.

Honest debate: Julia Eccleshare and Warren Buckleitner of Children’s Tech Review making it clear that there are still issues with getting apps for review. What’s the best way to get apps to tastemakers for review? The debate goes on…

The innovation that is crucial for developing digital publishing: Matthew Growney of Isabella Products was profiling the Fable, which will launch in autumn 2012. It lies somewhere between kids toys and adult tablets. We like this product – is there a place for it in the market? We’ll see…

The creativity of children’s app developers – showcased in the first ever Bologna Ragazzi Digital Prize – was demonstrated perfectly by Portland based Night & Day Studios who’ve been producing successful apps for children since 2008. Working with big brands, Night & Day’s apps have a retro vibe and appeal to parents, nostalgic for the characters of their youth – in that vein, we especially love their Richard Scarry app.

And closer to TLP’s London home, the wonderful Nosy Crow, who will follow up the huge success of their Bizzy Bear on the Farm app (also on the Ragazzi Digital Prize shortlist) with an app of their popular Pip and Posy books for toddlers in which children get to add their creative flair to the illustrations of Axel Scheffler.

The conference was rounded off by Lizzy Wood of Worldreader with stark images of empty library shelves in African schools, reminding everyone that what it comes down to is getting books to children – in whatever form – because with literacy skills comes opportunity. Worldreader announced that new technology developed by biNu can turn old style mobile phones into ereaders – and so can bring reading to huge numbers of children who have previously not had any books. Fantastic to see technology opening up opportunities for children to gain literacy skills.

For the first time this year, TOC Bologna was reflected in the main book fair with an exhibition space and digital cafe in one of the main halls playing host to six exhibitors active in digital publishing for children and a range of talks and debates in the digital cafe. The interest in digital was clear with 2,500 delegates attending over three days.

Kristen McClean of Bookigee said during TOC that the children’s market is “the best ouija board” to anticipate where we are going as an industry. If this is the case, then the general optimism at the second annual TOC Bologna bodes well for the the publishing industry as a whole.

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