Thursday, February 14, 2013

App Storytime: PBBC chats with Michel Kripalani, the President of Oceanhouse Media Inc, about creating children's book apps


The Phoenix Baby Book Club recently chatted about creating children's book apps with Michel Kripalani, the President of Oceanhouse Media, Inc.  Whether you're already sharing children's book apps with your baby, toddler or kids, or a newbie to discovering the great children's book apps out there, you'll enjoy this interview that shares the behind the scenes of creating educational worthy and interactive storybook apps for kids and how book apps can help kids learn to read.

PBBC: Your company’s mantra is “Creativity with Purpose,” and your apps fit that mantra perfectly, but what inspired you to create children’s book apps?

Michel Kripalani: As new parents, my wife and I recognized the opportunity to use mobile devices for storytelling and education. We saw how kids interact so easily with mobile devices and wanted to create children’s apps that were fun, engaging and educational that our own daughters could enjoy. Interactive storybook apps were a natural choice. We were given the chance to develop Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas! into an interactive book app and this resulted in us partnering with Dr. Seuss Enterprises to bring all 44 Dr. Seuss titles to the app market. Soon thereafter, we partnered with other well-known brands, such as The Berenstain Bears and Little Critter, to develop apps for their classic children’s books. Today, we have more than 100 children’s book apps available.

As a veteran of the video gaming industry how has your background been an asset when publishing educational and exciting children’s book apps?
My background in the video game arena was key when it came to publishing apps for the children’s market. From the beginning, I assembled a great team of software engineers, many of whom I had previously worked with, and together we were able to enter the market early and connect with well-known brands. Without our strong knowledge of programming and running a business in the digital space, I imagine the early days of this business would have included much more guesswork.


What book has been your most memorable experience to translate it into the digital book market?
I have to say that one of my favorite Dr. Seuss titles, The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins, was a memorable experience since I remember my parents reading this title to me as a child. To now have the chance to create the digital version of this great book and share it with my own kids is terrific.

What benefits will a child get from reading with your apps? What skills or abilities will the child gain from the app whether when reading with their parent or by themselves?
All of our children’s book apps focus on helping kids learn to read. Features such as synchronized word highlighting and tappable words encourage the youngest of readers to expand their vocabulary and make reading fun, all at the touch of a screen. Furthermore, words and illustrations are enhanced with professional narration, custom sound effects and picture/word association. We consciously limit the level of interactivity in our book apps as to not distract from the overall reading experience.

I love that while using your apps we hear sound effects, like when Little Critter puts dishes in the sink we hear the clattering, we also love how when you click the illustrations the word of that object you touched appears. Also the voiceovers/storytellers when the app is read to you are all very fitting to the theme and style of the story. Can you share some insight on the behind the scenes of putting the pieces together to create educational worthy and interactive apps, are the authors involved?
Creating apps is indeed a collaborative process. Our team includes software developers, technical artists, professional voice actors, sound designers, music composers and graphic designers. We use a proprietary book engine that’s the backbone for all of our children’s book apps. Each app has its own custom features, such as original narration and background audio. My wife, Karen, overseas all the voice over talent and is herself the voice behind many of our children’s book apps. In some cases, authors do review their apps during the development process, for instance, Mercer Mayer (Little Critter) Mike Berenstain (The Berenstain Bears) and Eric Drachman (Kidwick Books).
Can you share the benefits of reading the app yourself or having the app read to you?
With simple navigation tools, children can easily read the app alone and at their own pace. Kids love to have that sense of control. If they stumble on a word or sentence, for instance, they can tap on the screen and have the text read back to them, adding to their vocabulary and understanding of the story. We have a variety of books apps aimed at different reading levels, from pre-readers all the way up to kids 10 years old so you can find the perfect title based on age or reading level. Of course, reading a story to a child is just as beneficial since it creates a wonderful bonding experience and a hands-on way to connect with your child, creating life-long memories.
In addition, our Record and Share feature allows readers to record themselves reading a story and then share the recording with family, friends and teachers who also own the digital book. For teachers, it’s a great way to evaluate, track and save a student’s reading ability throughout the school year.
What are some new children’s book apps you are working on or are excited about right now?

Currently, we’re finishing up the classic Dr. Seuss collection. All 44 books that Dr. Seuss wrote and illustrated will be available by the end of summer on the app market. We’re also adding some fantastic new titles over the next few months in our The Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library, Smithsonian and Little Critter series. Stay tuned!

1 comment:

  1. This post is really incredible, one of the most helpful I have ever read, indeed.Shane Latham