On the up · 27 March 2017

Ebookadabra: The Netflix of kids’ picture books

Ebookadabra features books from several major publishers

The digital membership economy has emerged in recent years as a profitable solution to the way people consume digital media.

The subscription model allows businesses to form long-term relationships with customers, offering favourable pricing structures that benefit both user and platform. The children’s picture book market looks like the latest to have been cornered.

Ebookadabra brings together 100s of picture books from major publishers like Disney and Harper Collins, offering incentives for children to read through reward games and collectable stickers. The app incorporates an innovative search engine that allows children to explore the library through visual search terms.

Business Advice caught up with founder Tom Grayson to hear more about his plans for using the subscription model to bring books to a global audience.

(1) Who are you and what’s your business?

I’m Tom Grayson, founder of Ebookadabra – a “Netflix” of kids’ picture books which encourages reading through a system of rewards, games and sharing.

(2) How long have you been around for?

We founded our company in 2014 and launched our product last December.

(3) How do you make money?

We sell monthly subscriptions to Ebookadabra in return for access to our library of picture books, rewards, games and other cool features.

(4) What makes you different and why should people take notice?

We’re focused on picture books and getting kids excited about discovering and reading them.

Our model is subscription because we want to create an experience close to a virtual library or book club without any payment hurdles that might put families off consuming books. We are digital and mobile, meaning you can access our library anywhere, anytime.

We don’t see anyone else doing this in the UK and we know that the industry is ripe for disruption. It’s important because literacy is important – not just for its own sake but also because it is directly linked to poverty and inequality.

Books need to be taken to a wider audience, they need to be more diverse and they need to compete with the tonne of other activities grabbing kids’ attention.

(5) What was key in terms of getting started?

Two things. First, meeting my business partner Stéphane (our CTO) who immediately grasped the vision and has the incredible skills required to turn it into a reality. Second, convincing major publishers like Harper Collins and Disney to support Ebookadabra.

Ebookadabra launched publicy in December 2016

(6) What’s your biggest achievement to date?

Getting to launch! It took twice as long as expected and was three times as painful, but now we have a great content library and a beautiful reading experience that we know works with young kids.

(7) What setbacks have you had along the way?

What is worst is wasting time. We’ve made some bad decisions that have cost us some cash but worse, our time. Be that talking to the wrong people about money or making a change to the product that wasn’t justified.

Time is critical to the entrepreneur – it’s not like a big company where a missed deadline has no consequences. For us taking a blind alley can be fatal. Fortunately, we are quick learners and we are focused and we know that the quality of our decision making is likely the key to success.

(8) In five years’ time, I will be…

Celebrating our one millionth customer in India.

(9) What one tip would you give to others starting out?

Don’t believe everything you hear. In this market everyone is selling to each other and most of it is hype. Stand back, figure it out for yourself and draw your own conclusions.

(10) Who are your business heroes and why?

This is a really tough question. I don’t think the big names need heroising – success is its own reward. I think I prefer the smaller guys who do interesting things with their achievement.

Did you read the story about UK company Ebac – a family owned business? The owner, John Elliot, has recently put it in trust for the benefit of the employees and the town, so strong was his belief in the business being a part of the fabric of his community. From what I know, he would get my vote.

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Praseeda Nair is the editorial director of Business Advice, and its sister publication for growing businesses, Real Business. She's an impassioned advocate for women in leadership, and likes to profile business owners, advisors and experts in the field of entrepreneurship and management.