A personalized book is a book that is created specifically for someone, containing personalized text, customized illustrations, or variables, based on the characteristics of that person. Personalized books have long been popular gifts for children, where adults feel they are giving something unique to the child. With technology advances personalised books can be customized, ordered, printed and shipped within a week. Although most personalized book companies provide hard copy physical books only, there are a few companies who also offer some or all of their titles in downloadable soft copy.
Types of Personalization
All personalized books offer text variables – that is, the purchaser can customize the text of the book (such as the hero's name). The majority of personalized book companies offer this as the only variable, as it is the easiest and fastest element for the producer to customize. Create a book was one of the first companies to do this on a large scale, founded in 1981 by John Hefty. He patented a binding machine that made it quick and easy to bind pre printed illustrations with personalized text pages. Illustrations are created and sold in bulk, while the distributors print the personalized text pages and then bind them in with the pictures. I See Me!  founded by Maia Haag and Allan Haag in 1998 was also an early entrant in the category, with their personalized storybook My Very Own Name, in which animals spell out your child's name in rhyme.
This approach allows the purchaser to not only customize the text, but the illustrated hero’s unique features and colorings as well. In the case of Amazing Fables, Penwizard and CreateMeBooks, character-creator software is incorporated into the website that allows the user to customize an avatar of their child by selecting between many different variables – name, skin tone, hair colour, eye colour, etc. That avatar is then populated into the book illustrations as the star of the story, and their name is written into the story. Penwizard offers a wide range of titles such as Peppa Pig, Ben & Holly's Little Kingdom and In The Night Garden. These books are printed on demand, as every one is unique.
The newest form of personalized books are those where the story changes based upon the information inputted by a user. United Kingdom based personalized books publisher, Lost My Name, was one of the first to innovate children's books in this way. In their first publication, The Little Boy Or Girl Who Lost Their Name, the customer is able to adapt which characters the child meets based upon the child's name. For example, if a boy is called Lee, the first part of the story could be based around the child meeting a Lion or a Lobster.
Since launching their first book, Lost My Name have gone on to launch a book based upon a child's home, The Incredible Intergalactic Journey Home, and a book based upon a child's favorite things, Kingdom of You. Similar companies include Wizard Within, Amazing Fables, Bookyboo, Hooray Heroes and more.
Another, more complex type of personalization incorporates photo insertion/manipulation. A user-submitted photo of the “hero” is uploaded and inserted into the illustrations of the book, such as Pixel Pole, MyFairyTaleBooks, Kid Hero Stories, Shutterfly, Photobook, Pixajoy, Papier and Identity Direct. Unlike text only personalized illustration books, no pages of these books can be mass produced as each illustration is unique.
The above platforms insert a portion of a photo into a story, usually by cutting and pasting a child’s head into the illustration, such as what I See Me! pioneered with personalized board books such as My Farm Friends,.. More recently, Kabook! has introduced technology to digitally convert user photos to look and feel like part of the illustrated story. Kabook! claims it is the first company to digitally convert photos with this patent pending proprietary process.
With the rise in popular use of tablets and smartphones, a few personalized book providers are beginning to offer some or all of their titles in electronic format (eBooks). Benefits of eBooks are lower book costs and faster production / turn around time. Little Heroes, KD Novelties, Amazing Fables and Zoowun Books all offer a range of titles with text variables. Kid Hero Stories uniquely offers a personalized book service, where customers receive a new eBook story every week, (incorporating text variables and photo insertion).
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