Stories near and far

If current research is anything to go by, I’m not the only person to see the potential of an iPhone for use with children – although I would add that I’m perhaps more cautious than many about use of technology with (particularly very young) children.

That said, I also travel quite a lot for work and am always on the lookout for ways to remain an ‘active part’ of my child’s life when away.  Skype and FaceTime are indeed brilliant for this, but timezones and work commitments don’t always allow for real-time catch ups … which got me started thinking about ways to record a story for my youngster to enjoy whenever he wanted.

When I discovered A Story Before Bed, I thought my quest was over (albeit within minutes of it starting).  It seemed ideal – attractively presented ‘books’ with an easy-to-use interface allowing you to record yourself (via the webcam on your computer) telling the story; downloadable (emailable) stories so that your special little person can watch them on something more child-friendly than a hulking great laptop; and, most amazingly, free!  Unsurprisingly, the number of books which are actually free is a tiny amount of the full selection, but what the heck – I dutifully recorded one of the stories, saved it and shared it with my wee one … and he *loved* it!

The recorded book, showing the book on the left and the recording of the reader on the right.

Recording 'Xander and the Wind' by MCM

Excited by the success, I recorded another one … but he was a bit underwhelmed by this one (it was a nursery rhyme – and there are only four free stories to record, so I wasn’t exactly spoiled for choice), and it was clear that the free plan wasn’t going to be the ‘wonder solution’ to stories read by mum when she was away.  But I could see that a lot of the other stories he may well like, and I was enamored with the idea that other family members in distant parts of the globe could also record a story for him – and not just in English!  Maybe it was time to look into signing up?

I suspect that had it not been for me completely misreading the pricing structure for the site, this particular story would have ended quite well.  Somehow, however, I failed to see the words ‘per month’ after the 6/12/24 month pricing plans (erm … yeah – that would be the bit of text in bold black letters there!).  Consequently, having decided that despite the mixed reactions to the trial recordings, it was definitely worth a US $10 6-month trial.  Waltzing through the sign up process with credit-card in hand, I was obviously therefore a little surprised to find myself looking at US $60 for my trial!  I recoiled in horror to reassess the situation.

Did I like the concept of recorded stories which my child could access ‘on demand’?  Absolutely!  Did he?  Yes … and no.  They had to be the right stories, and none of his current favourites are in the library to record.  Was I prepared to pay around US $100/year (or an astonishing $7per book)?  Sadly, no!

I’ll admit that it’s largely my own fault that this whole situation ended so badly – if I’d simply read the prices more carefully in the first place, or was prepared to cough up 100 bucks for something that may or may not work, perhaps we’d already have dozens of books recorded in different languages by grandparents and me.  In the meantime – the quest continues!