Madefire Press


Reading On TV

Posted by Josh Wilkie ,
Uncategorized | Permalink | Comments

Being part of a lean startup team has its pros and cons. I like to think positive, so, one pro in particular — the field testing of products in the early stages of development. From cranking away on the online authoring tool, configuring layouts in the app and reading many, many stories, being a part of the Madefire crew definitely keeps my hands dirty with what’s up and coming from both our creative studio and tech developers.

I began this week’s field test investigating a true passion of mine, my daughter, and an area where I see huge potential, children’s illustrated books on TV. Several months ago, our in-house production team created a sample for a publishers demo and I have to admit, it is a fun little read — Clarice Bean by Lauren Child. They added subtle animation and sound to the already compelling illustrations and remastered the book to fit a 16:9 layout in high-res for screen reading of any size.

My colleagues in the publishing industry are initially shocked when I mention our Android TV and XBOX platform offer. The first question is usually “does anyone read on TV?” My response, “we don’t really know, but do you want to find out with us? kidding…but seriously, do you?…”

I was struck with a “light bulb” moment when I happened to see my daughter walk over to her shelf and grab a picture book. Why not find out what SHE thinks about a book on TV. I have my theories, my bias, my personal experience; but what about a one year old, would she be into it?

With my old GoPro and lab partner/test subject, Isabella, we set out to investigate.

I opened the demo book within the Madefire app on my iPhone, selected Airplay -> Share Screen, turned my phone to landscape and the book immediately popped up. As I wrangled the test subject, I pondered a few questions:

  • What is the engagement difference between this and a cartoon/animation video? Does seeing the book on TV even register to her as something attractive to look at?
  • Does the short animation and pauses lose her attention?
  • How can it be a better/worse experience than sitting with her to watch a video? What about a physical book?

Check the video to see the experience unfold

It’s fair to say, Isabella was pretty stoked from the start.

The most noticeable reaction (aside from the “wow” factor) was the engagement – not just with Isabella and the book – but with myself and Isabella. This is not a ‘sit back and let the screen do the work’ experience, but it did create a bridge to connect and interact with my daughter directly, while also having something entertaining for us both.

Last year, the American Academy of Pediatrics released an official statement recommending parents read out loud to their children everyday, to stimulate vital brain development. Dr. Pamela High recommends parents should be “reading together as a daily fun activity.” This struck a chord with me – usually the time we read to our daughter is with either me or her mom, and in a generally intimate setting – not exactly a “family activity.”  The experience I recorded could be an early look at a solution.

I couldn’t take this first experience for anything but a success. The TV just might be a future destination for reading. Isabella was responsive and continuously focused on me and the screen the whole time (until Mom came home), plus we got our daily ”Doctor-recommended” dose of out loud reading. We got to interact without distracting from the experience. Picture books are meant to be looked at, explored, imagined – a motion book allows the reader to maintain control over those elements as they unfold sequentially.

I see the landscape for digital reading evolving rapidly, almost exponentially given the advancement in visual screen technology: Double Retina, Ultra-HD, 4k, 8k, AR/VR… it’s already infiltrated games, TV, film. It’s only a matter of time before book publishing gets its upgrade.

With kids or not, would you read on your TV?


  1. Hello Josh,

    I’m extremely impressed with what you guys at madefire are doing and think it’s the future. I have a comic book now that we want to put out using the madefire tool, but none of us know how to use it well. Would you or anyone you know be interested in collaborating with us on it?

    You can check out the cover here –

    We live in Los Angeles and already have interest from a few producers about making this a film, but I’d love to discuss more with you if possible.


    Justin Steele

  2. Carlos Frohlich says:

    Indeed such great idea. I would not read standard books but would do a try for more interactive ones. Same way powerpoint presentions are more popular than documents within corporative world.

    After I have read your post I have remembered couple times in which my youngest son (3y) tried to interact with the TV in the same way he does with the tablet. Seems storytelling is more appealing to him than videos o

    There is a rift happening now. I believe the main Idea is not the experience of interactive reading but storytelling, movements and sounds associated to the experience of reading is indeed another kind of media. Semi-static images associated the text and eventually choose the story path to run through changes everything. Books are one way forward meanwhile digital books can go forward, backwards, parallel…..

    Reading and interacting still part of the game. They are using mobile because TV does not have yet this functionality. Nielsen says that 85 percent of mobile owners use their tablet or smartphone while watching TV at least once per month, and 40 percent do so daily. Accenture says 87% of consumers use more than one device at a time. Globally, the smartphone is the most frequent companion device scoring 57% overall.

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