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Children’s Books Get the Algorithm Treatment

WSJ (paywall): “Goodnight Ninja? Knuffle Blobfish?  Epic, a digital reading platform, tracks what kids are searching for on its site and uses that data to create new books; ‘Bug is higher on the list than crocodile’…The digital comic book passed one million reads in its first five days last week. Epic predicted as much. It engineered the book to become a hit with kids ages 6 to 10 by basing its new owl heroine partly on children’s preferences and reading habits on the site. When a kid’s sticky fingers search for something to read, Epic captures that activity and feeds the information into its book recommendation engine—a tool that also informs the creation of new titles in-house. Epic’s team knows that children prefer owls to chickens and chickens to hedgehogs. Kids hunt for unicorns almost twice as often as they look for mermaids. Volcanoes are more popular than tsunamis, which are more popular than earthquakes. The Titanic is bigger than cowboys, pizza is bigger than cake, science is bigger than art and “poop” is bigger than all of them. During the pandemic, Epic has more than doubled its reach to 50 million children globally, most of them in the U.S. The online subscription children’s book service, founded in 2013 and based in Redwood City, Calif., is free to schools and has become a fixture of remote classrooms across the country by offering an easily accessible library of books and educational videos. Epic now possesses a trove of data on children, a group famously difficult to track…”

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