“Sky is the limit for children digital publishing”


says Michel Kripalani, president, Oceanhouse Media, an upcoming global digital publisher for children books in an interaction with All About Book Publishing (AABP).

Oceanhouse Media, Inc. is a leading publisher of mobile apps for iOS (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch) and Android devices. As of January 2011, the company crossed the one million mark of paid app downloads on Apple’s App Store. The company has more than 145 apps, many on Top 100 lists, on the App Store in the books, games, music, photography, health & fitness, reference and finance categories. Children books are high on the list for Oceanhouse Media.

Based in Encinitas, California, Oceanhouse Media was founded in January 2009 by Michel Kripalani, a veteran of the video gaming industry. The company has licensing agreements in place with Dr Seuss Enterprises, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, Zondervan (a division of HarperCollins), Hay House Publishers, Character Arts, Chronicle Books, and others. In many cases, the company works directly with authors to bring their beloved books to the mobile market, always staying true to the original content and intent of the books. Here, Michel Kripalani, president – Oceanhouse Media, Inc, shares a few insights into children ebooks.

AABP: Starting just two years back, Oceanhouse Media has indeed come a long way. How has the journey been so far?

Michel: It’s been a fantastic wild ride for us and we’re very grateful and thankful for how things are going. We definitely hit the ground running. Our first app, Bowls: Authentic Tibetan Bowls, did very well. Landing the Hay House contract was a really great next step for us. In a year and a half since we’ve already delivered close to a hundred apps for them. Landing Dr Seuss Enterprises in the fall of 2009 is really what opened the flood gates for us. That relationship has been fantastic. We’re very happy with the quality of the apps that the team is producing and thankfully the Dr. Seuss apps are introducing us to many more children’s book publishers, authors and agents around the world.

AABP: What was the idea behind this company?

Michel: This is my third startup. In the back of my mind I always thought it would be interesting to own a publishing business. With the introduction of the iPhone and digital distribution of apps it just seemed like a logical place to go. The idea really is to build a new style of digital content publishing firm. We believe we have a unique model of licensing successful products, adapting them, and re-publishing them. We believe we can deliver apps that are uplifting, educational, and inspirational. We are confident that we can create apps that fit squarely in that category and can really help the planet. The team is very focused on building high quality products that people really enjoy.

AABP: How many applications have you developed so far, and in what categories?

Michel: We’ve just shipped our 150th app. We primarily focus on the books category. We do a lot of children’s books, a lot of self-help and metaphysical books, we have some apps in health and fitness, finance and entertainment categories. We’ve also done three games and many tarot card apps. I guess the simple answer is that we are scattered across a wide variety of categories, but we do tend to focus primarily on books, and specifically children’s books.

AABP: Of these, how many eBooks are available?

Michel: If by eBooks you’re asking how many omBooks we’ve created (Oceanhouse Media digital book) then the answer is forty-two. Our plan is to release another 120 omBooks in 2011. We expect that the electronic digital book industry is really going to explode. Most big publishing houses are now looking for ways to get their books on the digital market. It’s where the publishing industry is going. It’s not going to be enough to just have the book in print, consumers are now expecting their favorite titles to be offered in more than one medium.

AABP: Which licensors are you working with and what is the criteria of selecting a particular licensor?

Michel: We are very fortunate to work with some of the best licensors in the business. We have deals in place today with Dr. Seuss Enterprises, Hay House, Chronicle Books, Houghton Mifflin, Harper Collins and many others. In terms of selecting a specific licensor we are looking for high quality content that has been well received in the market previously, primarily in book form. We also look for brands that people recognize, especially if they are recognized on a worldwide basis.

AABP: What is the organizational structure of Oceanhouse Media?

Michel: Oceanhouse Media Inc. is a privately held company with a very small number of employees and a larger group of independent contractors that work on a virtual basis.

AABP: What are the Unique Selling Points of Oceanhouse Media?

Michel: We focus on building very high quality apps that we know consumers are going to enjoy. We take content that has already been successful in another format and build a new level of functionality on top of those products as we bring them to mobile devices. We use the multimedia features available to us to transform the original products into even more useful, exciting and educational apps. In particular, the omBooks we’re producing are also contributing to children’s literacy. There are many very important tie-ins between the graphics, the text, and the audio in every app. The words highlight perfectly in sync with the narration so that as the child is listening to the words they are also seeing those exact words highlighted on the screen. We support this with picture word association features which allow the child to tap on any picture and see the word enlarged as it’s spoken. Additionally, almost without exception we are then able to offer the digital app version of these products at a cheaper price than their print or film counterpart.

AABP: In your opinion, how big is this market and what is the potential to grow?

Michel: There are about 70 million iPhones in the world, another 70-80 million iPod touches, and 15-20 million iPads. All combined that’s approximately 160-170 million devices. I don’t see why, with the advent of Android taking off and Apple really hitting its stride, there couldn’t be a billion devices worldwide that are capable of running these apps. The sky is really the limit, we’re seeing people using their desktop computers and laptop computers less and less and switching their time over to mobile devices. We’re seeing children much younger in age get access to smart phones and tablets so we are very bullish on the growth. We expect that there is going to be an absolute explosion of hardware and apps and we believe this is the future of publishing.

AABP: What are the future plans?

Michel: We plan to acquire more high quality licenses. We are always looking to expand our team. Our goal is to become one of the leading, if not the leading children’s book digital publisher in the world. This however is such a fast moving industry, there’s no way to know what it’s really going to look like tomorrow or next year, so we just try to stay on top of our game and ready for the next big thing.

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