Behind the App with Oceanhouse Media President Michel Kripalani

MichelKripalaniPhotoChildren’s book app developer Oceanhouse Media is well-known to iPad owners for their cutting edge digital — yet still faithful-to-print — versions of the Berenstain Bears, Mercer Mayer’s Little Critter series, and, of course, Dr. Seuss for iOS. If a reader wants to own Green Eggs and Ham, or any of Dr. Seuss’ other classic titles on her iPad, she’s only going to find it as an omBook.

Company President Michel Kripalani shared his thoughts on how his company partnered with Dr. Seuss Enterprises, how to know when an apps has enough bells and whistles, and where the iPad will be in 5 years.

(PadGadget): Oceanhouse Media is well-known as the developer who brought Dr. Seuss to iOS. How did the relationship between OM and the Dr. Seuss estate develop?

(OceanHouse Media): As a UC San Diego graduate, I had an affiliation with the UCSD Geisel Library (named after Theodor Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss) and was able to secure an introduction to Dr. Seuss Enterprises in 2009. From there, we had to pitch why Dr. Seuss would be great on an iPhone (the iPad had not yet been announced). Thankfully, they saw our vision. In the Fall of 2009 they gave us the approval to develop our first digital book app based on How the Grinch Stole Christmas! Its success led to us further partnering with Dr. Seuss Enterprises to bring all 44 classic Dr. Seuss titles to the app market. Over the last three years, we’ve developed over 40 Dr. Seuss apps including classic books, short stories, book collections, cameras and games, including the best-selling Dr. Seuss Band musical instrument game app.

(PG): There are so many amazing Dr. Seuss books. Do you have plans to bring any new titles to market in the near future?

(OM): By the end of this summer, we will have developed all of Dr. Seuss’ classic books into interactive digital book apps. Upcoming releases include The Butter Battle Book, The King’s Stilts, Bartholomew and the Oobleck, I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew and Scrambled Eggs Super! We continue to update all of the original Dr. Seuss digital book apps with major new features, including our most recent “Record and Share” where the reader can be the narrator of their own Dr. Seuss story, then share the recording with family and friends by email. The feature has been very well-received by parents, children and educators alike.

(PG): What were the challenges to bring your apps to market?

(OM): Initially, one of the challenges was determining what would go into the digital book apps and what to leave out. It’s easy to want to put in a lot of “bells and whistles” into the apps, especially when you’re dealing with such creative content as Dr. Seuss. However, we realized early on that these kinds of things are actually a distraction for young children, so we consciously choose to limit the level of interactivity as to not distract from the reading experience. There’s a fine line between staying true to the original content, yet adding features in the digital version that enhance the story and support literacy. The separation of our reading apps from our gaming and entertainment apps has proven to be a successful strategy.

Another challenge continues to be the competitive nature of the app market. With so many apps available, it can be difficult to get noticed and to continually stay at the top of the charts. Oceanhouse Media has been fortunate in that we have outstanding brands that families love and we continue to provide our users with the best quality and functionality in the apps.

(PG): Has the app been as profitable as you had hoped?

(OM): Oceanhouse Media and Dr. Seuss Enterprises are both very happy with how all the apps are doing. A few years ago we made an announcement when we had sold our one millionth Dr. Seuss digital book app on iOS. Since that point, things have continued to go extremely well and now we are also available on a number of other platforms.

(PG): Is there another children’s author whose books you’d love to adapt for iOS that you haven’t worked with yet?

(OM): Yes, we have a short list of authors that we’d love to work with. Stay tuned to see what partnerships we announce next!

(PG): Who are your favorite iOS app developers?

(OM): One of my favorite iOS developers is NimbleBit. They’re game developers in San Diego that continue to put out hit and after hit after hit, such as Pocket Frogs, Tiny Tower and NimbleQuest. I look at what they’re doing and think that it’s amazing. It’s a well-deserved success from a really talented group. Similarly, I have a lot of appreciation for Limbic Software, who are also UCSD grads who have done very well.

(PG): Has the release of the iPad mini presented any challenges or opportunities for Oceanhouse Media?

(OM): The iPad mini is a fantastic opportunity for us. The lower price point and smaller form-factor makes a lot of sense for kids to have access to their own iPad. We expect to see more and more of these in the hands of kids over the next few years.

(PG): The biggest change the iPad has made is?

(OM): The iPad really changes everything for toddlers and young kids. It’s the perfect form-factor for an interactive device for children. The fact that we can now have interactive experiences driven entirely by touch rather than using a computer and a mouse and keyboard enables a five, four, three, even a two-year-old to fully immerse themselves in an interactive experience. The finger is the most natural pointing device in the world. The iPad changes everything from this day forward as to how kids are going to learn and interact with the electronic world.

(PG): In 5 years the iPad will be …?

(OM): Ubiquitous in schools and will be viewed as a device that changed children’s education in a way that will have had almost as much of an impact as the Internet did. Whether it’s the iPad or other tablets, I really strongly believe that this does change everything.

Now it’s time for the speed round. Which term do you prefer?
Lightning or 30-pin? Lightning
Facebook or Twitter? Facebook
iPad or iPhone? iPad
Gorilla glass or guerrilla marketing? Gorilla glass
print or digital? digital
Wi-fi or cellular? Wi-fi
smart watch or pocket watch? Smart watch
pie or cake? Pie

It’s about time pie got some love in this column. Stay tuned for more news about Oceanhouse Media and its growing catalog of high quality kids’ edu-apps.

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About Emily: Emily is a freelance writer who loves discovering new apps whenever she can pry the iPad away from her children or husband. You can contact her via Twitter: @whatwentwrite