If, like me, you shed a silent Gen X tear when Reading Rainbow was forced off the air a few years ago, and if, like me, you felt bad for longtime host LeVar Burton, whose public quest to drum up funding for his (utterly worthwhile) show came to naught, you’ll be happy to learn that Rainbow is back as a brand new app that’s launching today, courtesy of Burton’s startup RRKidz.
As TechCrunch reports, the new-look Rainbow tries to bring books to life using a few methods your kids will already be familiar with (interactive menus, animation) and at least one they most likely won’t recognize (Burton himself, who hosts segments they’re calling “video field trips”). Observe:
The app is free, with a catch: Non-subscribers will only have access to a small amount of content, which can only be unlocked by joining up for a monthly fee. All of which makes sense — the only thing that gives me pause is RRKidz’s plan to charge $9.99 a month. I never watched Reading Rainbow — I was a little too old — but I definitely respect Burton’s work, and while I’m still ambivalent about apps that bend over backwards to make books more “interactive” for kids, I’d like to help him out. That price strikes me as a little steep, however.
I think maybe if Burton had rolled this out a few years ago, I’d have felt differently, but Reading Rainbow is entering a really crowded marketplace, and the price point for most apps has been set so low that $9.99 seems like a lot — especially given that a lot of parents are already paying similar fees for stuff like Netflix and Spotify.
This isn’t a judgment against the content Reading Rainbow is offering, because the app seems pretty robust and well-designed; I just wonder whether they’ll be able to find enough subscribers to support their business model. I hope so — or, barring that, I hope they’ll be able to adjust their asking price enough to survive and thrive.
What do you think? Will you be purchasing a ride on the Reading Rainbow?