High-Tech Gloss on a Mid-20th-Century Kid’s Classic

By Neal Comment

poky-little-puppy.jpgFunny how yesterday’s item about building your own short story collection had got me thinking about SharedBook, the “reverse publishing platform” company I first encountered at last year’s O’Reilly Tools of Change conference—this morning, the company is formally unveiling an agreement with Random House that will enable consumers to go online and order personalized editions of selected books, beginning with the all-time champ of English-language hardcover children’s books, Janette Sebring Lowrey and Gustaf Tenggren‘s The Poky Little Puppy.

The press release announcing the collaborative venture was embargoed until late this morning…but if you happened to Google “Poky Little Puppy” late last night, as I did while looking for background information on the book, you would have discovered SharedBook’s customization page was already live, inviting customers to add short dedications, perhaps even photos, to create an individualized frontispiece page for a $25 hardcover. Likewise, if you had visited the Golden Books home page for whatever reason poeple have for visiting the websites for children’s book publishers, the program had already soft-launched, and anybody could’ve blogged about it or otherwise broken the news if they were sufficiently motivated. So there’s an important lesson for all publishers to remember as they plunge into the digital marketplace: If you’re going to attempt a media embargo, make sure the IT team is kept in the loop.

As for the whole personalizing kid’s books thing, I’m putting a vote in for a huge Richard Scarry database, where you can pick from thousands of little illustrations (individually captioned, of course) and create your own tableaux. That would be the best word book ever, if you asked me.