Discis branches out to multi-format `books’

Discis Knowledge Research expects to broaden its sales potential with the introduction of new multi-format versions of its cd-rom-based Discis Books.Founded in Toronto in 1988, Discis acquires the rights to children's stories and publishes them as cd-rom-based interactive children's books.20 titlesThe...

Discis Knowledge Research expects to broaden its sales potential with the introduction of new multi-format versions of its cd-rom-based Discis Books.

Founded in Toronto in 1988, Discis acquires the rights to children’s stories and publishes them as cd-rom-based interactive children’s books.

20 titles

The company, which targets the educational and consumer markets, has about 20 interactive titles in its stable, including The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter, The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe, and Thomas’ Snowsuit by Robert Munsch.

Since 1990, when it released its first titles, Discis has configured its product primarily for use on Apple Macintosh computers equipped with cd-rom drives.

But beginning in March, it will make 11 titles available for use on ibm pc-based multimedia computers as well.

Expands potential

John Lowry, chairman and co-founder of Discis, says the new pc-adapted titles expand his potential customers several times.

Lowry estimates there are about one million multimedia computers in homes, schools and businesses across North America.

He says Apple accounts for about one-quarter of the total number of units, while ibm-compatible pcs account for most of the balance.

(Other cd-rom systems on the market include the Amiga system and cdtv by Commodore.)

Sales growth for cd-rom software producers will occur only if growth occurs first on the hardware side.

Lowry says early indications suggest pc-based hardware manufacturers will sell about two million units over the next year, while Apple will sell about 750,000 units in the same period.

To date, Discis has sold more than 300,000 discs, primarily across North America, but also in other countries around the world.

Numerous competitors

The company, which is often cited in business circles as a Canadian exporting success story, faces numerous competitors in the cd-rom software market, including Warner New Media, a division of u.s. media giant Time-Warner.

There are hundreds of cd-rom titles on the market, and the number is growing steadily.

Lowry says Discis’ strategy has been to position its titles as educational tools, adding more than half its sales have been to the educational market.

But he says that in the future he will probably release different versions for the educational and consumer markets.

A typical Discis story might comprise 20 minutes of story-telling and another 10 hours worth of interactive learning information.

Three lines

The company publishes three lines of discs: Little Kids Can Read, for preschoolers and kindergarden; Kids Can Read, classical and contemporary children’s literature; and Discis Books Multimedia, for teens and adults.

Distribution to the educational market is through direct sales, while to consumers it is through major retailers.

Discis uses several creative resources including Calexis, a Toronto ad agency headed by Freeman McLarty and Barry Milavsky.