Bookful Is a New Reading App That Embraces AR and a Love of Books

by Laura Lambert

Image credit: Bookful, Beatrix Potter™ © Frederick Warne & Co., 2018

As the mom of a reluctant reader, I know all too well the push-pull of reading apps. My kid is drawn to the promise of screen time and the latest tech, while I’m banking on the enduring allure of the written word, however it’s presented. Luckily, there are developers and book lovers who are collaborating to create something right where my kid’s interests and my intentions intersect. One of the latest is Bookful, which — as its tagline promises — brings books to life through augmented reality (AR).

AR holds a lot of promise when it comes to learning — particularly when it comes to STEM topics and older students. These immersive, multi-sensory environments give all kinds of learners new pathways into learning materials. But AR doesn’t just have to be strictly educational. For a 7-year-old boy who loves dinosaurs like my son, an AR-enhanced book offers a new, fun way to engage with content he knows and loves.

Image credit: Bookful

Indeed, the Bookful experience isn’t meant to replace traditional books, time spent on the lap, or learning to read. “The goal of the app is not to take away from reading time,” says Noa Oron, a project manager for Bookful. In fact, it’s about making books entertaining enough to be recreational. “It’s the ‘If you can’t beat them, join them’ model. This is where we’re moving — bringing books into screen time.” As Bookful CEO Benny Arbel told The Bookseller, the goal is “to stay loyal to what we all love about traditional books, their stories and their characters.”

Image credit: Bookful

At its launch, Bookful will offer both classic children’s fiction titles (The Tale of Peter Rabbit, The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck, and The Tale of Benjamin Bunny) as well as nonfiction titles (DK Children’s Encyclopedia and two Step Into Reading titles, Dinosaur Days and S-s-snakes) published by Penguin Random House. My son clearly favored the latter when he explored Bookful, as they lend themselves to his fact-hungry mind.

Kids can choose from two modes — read, which is really an immersive experience, or play, which involves on-theme games — and various functions can be turned on and off. If AR is too much for a younger reader, for instance, you can choose 3D mode. They have the option to read or to be read to. In Dinosaur Days, the stegosaurus stands on the page, wagging its spiked tail. In Peter Rabbit, you see Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail, and Peter hop around the very big fir-tree, which seems to grow right out of the book.

Image credit: Bookful

In a word, it’s delightful.

The Bookful library will continue to grow. Each new title takes weeks of engineering and development, and requires a just-right mix of images that lend themselves to 3D rendering and text that is short enough to parse as characters and settings lift off the page and move around. That just so happens to be the sweet spot for the intended audience, which is reluctant readers ages four to ten years old. If my son is any indication, the rest is intuitive — you just need the appropriate phone or tablet, no additional headset, and your imagination.

Click here to download Bookful via the iOS App Store.