An intriguing press release posted at Digital Book World spotlights that the Scholastic Book Fair is going digital with a new book-scanning app, designed to complement the in-school book fairs they run every year. The app is designed to help parents find the right book for their kids: they can bring their phones to the book fair and use them to scan the covers for any book that’s there, and then get information on reading level, content descriptions, suggested similar books and other details. They can create wish lists, order digital versions through Scholastic’s Storia program and purchase books which might not have been available on the day of the fair.
I think the app sounds like a fabulous idea. The release says their technology partner “enables apps to see and connect digital experiences to physical products” and I think that’s the right type of use for an app like this. You might never replace the physical book fair–you might not want to—but an app like this could complement it nicely. I do think an app like this could bring in sales, both of ebooks and of physical copies which might be sold out or not available. And teachers especially will welcome the enhanced info on reading levels and content notes—if it’s done right!
Two potential bugbears I see? Firstly, if the database is not complete, the app will be pretty much useless. If I downloaded the app and scanned a book and was faced with ‘information not available,’ I doubt I would try again with another book. They’ll need to make sure the app is complete on launch day.
Additionally, I think they didn’t leave themselves much time to promote this properly. The press release is dated October 10. My own school’s book fair is next week. That’s not much time for people to find out about this, especially if it gets lumped in with the book apps and not the educational ones, which parents are more likely to peruse.
So, will this app be a boon, or a bust? We’ll see. I hope to see some signage next week at our own book fair, alerting people to download the app before they browse. Otherwise, I can’t see how any of the parents at our school will even know that it’s an option.