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Mobile Apps

Amazon Rapids offers a chatty take on kids reading

The app, available for $2.99 a month, includes hundreds of short stories for kids, told through text messages.

Just tap to read what's next.

Ben Fox Rubin/CNET

Can text messages get kids to read more? We're about to find out.

Amazon introduced on Wednesday a new mobile app called Amazon Rapids, which offers hundreds of original bite-size stories for kids for a monthly subscription of $2.99.

The twist is that each piece is told as a series of text messages between characters, like the one about two chickens debating about crossing the road or another about a skeleton father telling his son pun-filled dad jokes (they're very humerus).

"We wanted to invent a new way for reading, to get kids to have fun reading," Michael Robinson, Amazon Education's director of consumer products, said while showing off a Rapids story about an alien invader chatting with a kid.

Amazon Rapids adds to the e-commerce giant's growing list of products and services targeted at kids and education. With plenty of money to be made in this market, tech heavyweights Microsoft, Google and Apple are getting involved with many of their own educational offerings too.

Amazon in June introduced a suite of free educational tools for teachers, called Amazon Inspire, and the company offers a monthly subscription called FreeTime Unlimited, which offers kid-centric books, movies and educational apps. Amazon also makes kids shows for its Prime Video streaming service, including "Tumble Leaf" and "Annedroids."

The Rapids app is available for iOS, Android and Amazon Fire devices and is made for kids ages 7 to 12. Kids authors working with Amazon write the stories, and Amazon approves each one. Dozens of new stories are added each month.

Kids using the app can tap the screen to get the next text to appear. There's also a "read to me" mode that uses a phone or tablet's text-to-speech feature to read out each story. Kids can also click on any word to look it up and save it in a glossary.