Bookbuilders @ Fable's Pre-Launch Party

Bookbuilders @ Fable’s Pre-Launch Party

This post was contributed by Kate Elwell, Bookbuilders board member and production coordinator at the MIT Press.

I was fortunate to be invited to the Pre-Launch Party on Monday night for Fable, a new tablet for young readers and learners. It was a very intimate gathering held in the lovely map room at the Boston Public Library. The Boston Public Library was the perfect location to combine local and literary, reflecting the roll out of Fable by Isabella Products, a local company based in Concord, Massachusetts.
The founder and CEO of Isabella, Matthew Growney, in a sharp suit and fashionable eye glasses, welcomed the group to the event and introduced the first speaker, Kristen McLean. While chatting with Cambridge-based Publishers Weekly journalist Judith Rosen at the beginning of the event, I was introduced to Kristen. She has an amazing history in the industry, working at places like Brookline Booksmith and even repping the MIT Press, before ultimately founding Bookigee and currently serving a stint as entrepreneur in residence at Nielson. 
Guests and speaker Kristen McLean at the Fable Pre-Launch Party in the BPL’s Map Room
Kristen’s talk was fascinating: she pulled from very current data about the learning, reading, and gaming habits of children 0–6 and 7–12. The stat that blew me away most was that tablets increase reading time for boys by 24% (12% for girls, who are bigger readers in general).  That’s the kind of trend that the creators of Fable are hoping to capitalize on. 
The next speaker was Furnell McGrath, a second grade teacher at a public elementary school in Everett. She ran a pilot program with the Fable tablets in her summer school classroom and then in her second grade class this school year. She said that students engaged with the content more fully and for longer on the tablet and that it had practical benefits for children with learning disabilities. She used the word fun more than once, and even attributed the Fable to better summer school attendance. My big takeaway from Mrs. McGrath was that, in this digital age, young learners have so much access to so much information, and not all of it age appropriate. Because the Fable doesn’t have a browser—just a cloud-based marketplace accessed only via a parent’s or teacher’s PIN—young learners can access only content tailored specifically for them. But because of the tablet’s easy usability, young users maintain the feeling of control in their experience.

I think the big questions that remain are who will Fable get to provide content, what kind of user model will it have, and how will Isabella get parents to choose this tablet over all of the others on the market? I, for one, am looking forward to watching the Fable become a part of the publishing landscape. Look for the Fable tablet available for purchase in March of 2015.