Underpants and eBooks | Blog | Kids Industries


Underpants and eBooks

Posted January 9, 2012, By Gary Pope, Client Director

Bad brand experiences should be a thing of the past. You get sad and vow never to buy that company’s goods again ever… until you have to. It’s annoying, isn’t it?

Here’s a tale of woe from last night…

Laurence loves underpants, dinosaurs and stories. Little surprise then that a favourite book of his is “Dinosaurs Love Underpants”. And it’s a corker.

That’s the background.

Last night he wants some bedtime stories on the iPad. It’s not news to you that incredible things have been happening on the platform. Great companies are doing great things. Nosy Crow and Oceanhouse Media really stand out. And even Disney has gone beyond the colour of the money (to a degree) in making some great story-apps that have genuine value.

Given the love of Underpants I thought I’d do a search. Turns out there’s a veritable draw full from Simon and Schuster. So I spend £5.99 – that’s $10.00 in real money. For, wait for it…”Aliens in Underpants save the World”.

Same author, same illustrator, similar story to Dinosaurs Love Underpants but set in Space. As Laurence is 3 and a half now he’s getting a sense that there’s a big universe out there and as the book has Underpants, Spaceships and Aliens on the cover, we can’t go wrong.

But we do.

Or rather they do.

Let me explain.


Laurence was happy with the whole experience – I did the voices, he got to swipe the pages. Nice story. Laurence went to sleep happy dreaming of how aliens saved the world from a rogue comet intent on destruction by creating a huge shield of sewn together underpants. Happy days.

But not for me. I’ve been cheated. I just paid £5.99 for a digital flip book. And a poor execution at that. The code didn’t really understand the accelerometer so I was incessantly spinning the iPad, it hadn’t been reformatted to fit the screen properly and I was smarting throughout because I just got burned.

But given Laurence was happy, does any of this matter? You bet it does. I just can’t get my head around is how anyone can sell the proper book for £3.99 but the virtual one (which is little more than a badly saved .pdf) costs £5.99. No interactivity – no sound, no cheeky little hidden things for father and son to discover together. Not even an alien’s fart. Nothing but a badly drawn .pdf. What a shame that this very, very good book has been so let down by commerce.

In these tough times is the quarterly return really as important as nurturing and developing long term relationships with your consumers? I will never buy another digital book from them again. Ever. And I’ll tell my friends not to bother either. Lots of them.

I bought it from the bookstore on ibooks so I should have known better. But this is 2012. My expectations are high and for $10.00 they are very high. And there’s this other thing that still needs to be ironed out…when is a book an app? And when is an app a book? I know. Not sure they do.

For children, convergence is the continuity of storytelling. They do not differentiate between platforms whether invented by Gutenburg or Jobs. It doesn’t matter as long as it’s a great story well delivered. But this wasn’t well delivered.

When you buy a “digital book” for children on a tablet you buy a story experience. It’s just the way it is. You could argue that Laurence enjoyed it so it doesn’t matter.

And you’d be right. But just think what he didn’t get from the experience that he could have. Especially for that money. And it wasn’t just this book. I downloaded three others just to see. Great stories, rubbish experiences.

Bottom line? I felt ripped off. That my underpants, let alone the shirt on my back, had been ripped from me. And that’s about as big a sin a marketer can deliver.


work/iconTagSmall.png bedtime children ebooks experiences insight interactive ipads kids mobile narrative reading research stories story storytelling tablets underpants

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