1 September 2014

REVIEW: Sparkup Book Reader

 The voice of stories past...

So you've had a visit from the in-laws and while they were staying with you they read to the kids every night. Not only did the kiddies love to hear their favourite stories read aloud by nan and granddad, but it gave you and your partner some bonus 'special time'. Score.

But now that the grandparents have gone home the kids still want to hear their voices reading The Gruffalo, and no matter how hard you try to impersonate your mother in-law, the kids aren't happy. Fortunately you had Sparkup to hand while they were here, meaning story time is still just as easy.

Sparkup is a digital book reader that records your (or a visiting relative's) voice reading aloud any book. It clips onto the book, uses the built-in camera to detect page turns, and records as you read, allowing the child to access their favourite stories (read by their favourite people) at any time. It stores up to 50 recordings, but these can be saved to a computer for later, and also pre-recorded stories can be downloaded from the internet.

Very light and compact, Sparkup clips onto the back page of the book, and although this was an easier task on a hardback or board book, we found that if properly supported it attached well to paperback books as well. It is simply a case of hitting record, turning the first page, and reading aloud - Sparkup manages the rest. Also, as it cleverly identifies which book it is clipped onto, there is no need to select the story from the onboard memory, eliminating the need for the child to learn how to operate a tricky OS.

In practice we found it incredibly good, both in making recordings and recognising books and starting to play the correct recordings. As it uses the camera to detect not only the book but also which page you are on, if you skip a page, so does Sparkup.

The quality of the audio is also very good and Sparkup reproduces voices with pretty good accuracy. And yes, there is a volume control, for those moments when your child is drifting off to sleep and you don't want anything to disturb them (and delay you and your partner's forthcoming 'special time').

We really like the Sparkup Book Reader and can imagine developing a growing library of friends and relatives reading your kids' favourite books. It may be morbid to think about it now, but imagine in a few years when you have a collection of recordings that includes people who have passed way. That's like getting a bedtime story from beyond the grave! Holy crap.

Around £35  

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