Give Your Child an Interactive Reading Experience with Jeremy Fisher: Buddy Edition

As a child, some of my favorite books were the little Beatrix Potter books about the wonderful animal world of Peter Rabbit, Jeremy Fisher, the tailor mice, and more. Whenever I see those original books at the library, I’m immediately reminded of sitting by my Mom as a little guy and reading those tales. Beatrix Potter’s books have a timeless quality to them, just like the original Pooh book included with iBooks for free.

Sideways Apps has brought several of Beatrix Potter’s books to life on iOS, first with Peter Rabbit: Buddy Edition and most recently with The Tale of Jeremy Fisher. Each of these turn the original text and beautiful artwork into an interactive experience. They also include the innovative Buddy Reader technology that lets you read the book to your child from anywhere. Let’s explore the Jeremy Fisher app to see how the Buddy Reader works and the direction this tech could take dedicated eBook apps.

Beatrix Potter’s Work Comes Alive on iOS

The Buddy Editions of Beatrix Potter’s books take the original tales and combine them with beautiful classic graphics and fonts to give a vintage elegant look to the apps. On iPhone, you can read through the Jeremy Fisher tale on your own, listen to it with a clear recording of the book, or read the book to someone else on another device anywhere around the world.

This last feature is the neatest part of the Buddy Edition books. With just an internet connection and a free iOS Game Center ID, you can read the book along with your child, grandchild, or any another special children, even if they don’t live anywhere nearby.

The Tale of Jeremy Fisher app keeps a classic and elegant feel

Of all children’s books, Beatrix Potter’s books seem custom made for the iPhone form factor. They’re traditionally printed as 5″x4″ small books, which is only marginally larger than the iPhone or iPod touch’s screen. Each page includes text and images specially formatted for the iPhone. The only problem is, you can’t change the font, size, or brightness like you could in iBooks or Kindle, and text cannot be selected or copied either. For these children’s books, however, this works fine.

To navigate the book, swipe left to look closer at the pictures, the swipe again to switch to the next page. Alternately, tap the arrow icon on the bottom to open a next and previous page button. Many of the pages include interactive elements that children can move around the page, such as the dragonfly in the image below. Many pictures also include hotspots with vocabulary words; tap the spots to hear the word read. These all make the book an immersive and educational experience for children.

Most images are interactive

Setting up Buddy Reading

To read the book along with someone else on another device, you’ll have to have the same app installed on each iPhone or iPod Touch. Each device will need to have a unique Game Center ID, and you’ll also need to add each other as friends in Game Center. Once this is done, tap Buddy Reading in the app’s main screen to start reading together. The device that starts the connection will be the one that reads, while the second device will be able to listen to the first.

By default, the Game Center will try to Auto-Match you with another player, but to read together, you’ll want to select an individual friend. Just tap Invite Friend, then select the friend you want from the list and tap Next to set it up.

Invite one of your Game Center friends to read the book together

Now enter an invite message, and tap Send to invite your friend to read together. The second device will then receive a push notification that you’ve invited them, and can choose to accept or reject it. As soon as they’ve accepted, you’ll see it on your game screen, and can tap Play Now to start reading together.

Oddly, by default it asks if you want to "play" Jeremy Fisher together

There’s just one more step needed. On the device that started the Buddy Reading connection, you’ll see a security code. This needs entered on the listening device, so if you’re not nearby you may need to text the code to the listener or call and let them know what to punch in. The good thing is, once you’ve done this, you’ll never need to enter the security code in again to read together between these two devices. So, you could, perhaps, setup your device and your grandmother’s at a family gathering, and then she could read a book to your child later without this step.

Enter the code on the listening device to activate the connection

Reading Together

Once the new reading session is started, you’ll immediately be switched to the book view. The device that started the connection will control the reading experience; you’ll read out loud and turn the pages, and the listener will hear the reading and see the pages turned automatically. Just like reading along with a kid sitting beside you, you can share the book through your iOS devices seamlessly no matter where you are. The only thing that doesn’t stay in sync is the movable parts of the pictures such as the dragonflies. Otherwise, it’s just like screen-sharing from a PC designed around the reading experience. The performance and audio fidelity were great in our tests, too.

Read together just like you were sitting side by side

iPad Extras

All of the Buddy Edition books are universal apps, so you can use them on your iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad. Jeremy Fisher: Buddy Edition on iPad includes a couple extras that aren’t in the iPhone version. It has a number of high-quality coloring pages and connect-the-dot games for children that go along with the story. The coloring pages include a variety of colors and a virtual eraser, as well as a magic crayon that just uncovers the original color in the picture. You can then save the picture to your Photos app or email it to friends or grandparents. These are definitely a nice addition to the book, and I only wish they’d made a small version in the iPhone app as well. The only problem is, it’s yet another app that will get your kids to beg to use your iPad more!

Coloring in Jeremy Fisher on iPad

Conclusion

The Buddy Edition books are a great example of how traditional books can be turned into a much richer experience as eBooks. Unlike Kindle or iBooks eBooks, these Beatrix Potter books come alive and are fully redesigned for the touchscreen experience.

After Steve Jobs stated a couple years ago that people never read anymore, developers are showing that the touchscreen interface can bring excitement back to reading even for kids. Whether you’re wanting your kids to read the classic Beatrix Potter books or would like a way to read to them or other special kids in your life when you’re away, the Buddy edition books are an exciting new way to experience these classic animal tales.


Summary

Jeremy Fisher: Buddy Edition brings the classic Beatrix Potter book to life as a universal iOS app. Best of all, you can read the book back to the special kids in your life even if you're far away thanks to the Buddy technology.

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