Tag Archives: digital rights

Books, Apps, and Us: A Chat with Michel Kripalani

Today, we are checking in with Oceanhouse Media (OM) to see what they’ve been up to since our last visit, in August.  Prior to that, we first met with its founder Michel Kripalani in February 2011.  OM keeps evolving with each encounter. Their title list has expanded, in concert with the size of their offices.

Joy Chu:  Would you share some stories about your latest projects? Your partnership with Dr. Seuss Enterprises continues happily! His 108th birthday was just this month (March 2).

Michel Kripalani:  We have some very exciting titles coming soon. In the Dr. Seuss line, we’re about to come out with The Shape of Me and Other Stuff  (release date March 21) . . .

…and Horton Hatches the Egg (release date April 4). We’re super excited for both of those.

Recently, we’ve launched the Dr. Seuss Beginner Book Collection #1, which has done really well. It seems that people are gravitating towards this idea of having multiple books in one app.

We’re going to follow that up with a Collection #2  (release date March 21);  and also a Mercer Mayer Little Critter collection. Finally, The Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library series has been very well received, with the first two apps that came out; and we have a number of new titles in production as well. The team is incredibly busy and we have a lot of great omBooks (Oceanhouse Media digital books) coming in the next three months.

JC:  Tell us about the books you do with the Smithsonian, of Triceratops Gets Lost; It’s Tyrannosaurus Rex! and Penguin’s Family. What age group is this geared towards?

MK:  The Smithsonian titles are great. We work with Soundprints, out of Connecticut, who is the publisher of the books. The books originally came in print form, with audio CDs attached.

Now, we’ve taken those materials and combined them into apps, making them more interactive. There’s some really great omBooks out there as you’ve already listed — Triceratops Gets Lost, It’s Tyrannosaurus Rex!, Polar Bear Horizon, Woolly Mammoth In Trouble and Penguin’s Family. Children from 3 to 7 years old really seem to enjoy these educational apps.

JC:  These titles are nonfiction-oriented — as opposed to the classic Seuss titles. Are your steps different when doing these books?  Will the emphasis be more on sidebar material, in addition to terminology?

MK:  The steps are not really that different. We always take the original source material and adapt it to interactive form as best we can.

For Dr. Seuss, it happens to be fiction and storytelling and in the case of Smithsonian there tends to be more scientific content. Our process is very similar. In terms of sidebar material, we use everything that’s provided to us.

It just so happens that the Smithsonian line, and also The Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library line, have a lot of this additional information that we’re able to embed in the apps.

Sidebar from "Oh Say Can You Say Di-no-saur? All About Dinosaurs"

Sidebar material from "Polar Bear Horizon"

JC:  I’m excited you will be producing an omBook featuring one of my all-time favorite artists, Byron Barton!

MK:  We’re extremely excited as well. The books are fantastic to begin with, and we’ve added a real fun level of interactivity that we think will be very exciting for toddlers.

The first release is Planes, launching on March 14. Additional omBooks based on Barton’s transportation books will be released in the next several months through our partnership with HarperCollins Children’s Books.

JC:  You have another addition to your stable since our last meeting: omBooks affiliated with Kidwick Books.

MK:  Kidwick Books are a perfect example of how picture books with great storytelling can be transformed into engaging, interactive apps.

The award-winning Leo the Lightning Bug as well as Ellison the Elephant and A Frog Thing are a wonderful addition to our omBook collection, with stories that encourage patience, perseverance, and confidence in young children.

JC:  You now appear to have a mix between the author/artists you deal directly with [examples: Mercer Meyer; Alona Frankel’s Potty series; Dr Seuss Enterprises; Kidwick Books]; and other projects in tandem with major publishing houses [examples: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Official Character Arts, LLC./Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer].

Now that Oceanhouse has hit the ground running, will you continue producing omBooks as direct partners, special third party licensee arrangements, or both? In what percentage of each?

MK:  For us it’s very straight-forward. We do the deal with whoever holds the rights.

If the author and illustrator hold the digital rights to their material, then we’re happy to do a direct deal with them. If the rights reside with the publisher, we’re equally happy to work with the publisher. It really makes no difference to us, and it’s a little bit hard for me to predict which way the rights will be held in the future.

JC:  What do you look for when you take on either of the above business relationships? And would you define the term “Evergreen Title” in terms of book print quantity? What about web presence (ie, how many “hits”?); when this is included in a project proposal?

MK:  Every book and every line is different. To date, as a business, we’ve been looking for evergreen titles from big brands. Clearly, Dr. Seuss, The Berenstain Bears and Little Critter all fall in this category.

So in general, we do tend to gravitate towards lines with multiple books, a dozen or more is attractive to us, and titles that have been selling for many, many years. Over time, I expect this will change, and we may start to explore books just because we think there’s a chance that in an app adaptation they’ll do particularly well.

JC:  If an author/illustrator owns the complete rights to their currently out-of-print book, they would ideally show a written proposal. What should it contain?

MK:  A written proposal is a great place to start. People can feel free to contact us via email (info@oceanhousemedia.com).

A simple summary is great. Perhaps deliver a few PDF images of some pages as well. We love to know what print runs and sales figures have been in the past.

To date, most of the titles that we’ve adapted into apps have sold well over 50,000 or more copies, some into the hundreds of thousands and even millions.

JC:  Any other new news you can share with us?

MK:  One other line that we recently launched that we’re really excited about is adaptations of the Picture Me® Press books, which allow children to put their photographs into the omBooks.

In physical form, you’d put a 4×6 photo at the back of the book and see it on every page. But in app form (pictured here), we’ve found that it’s even that much more playful because you can use the camera on the device to take a picture or go get something out of your photo library.

Then we still add all of the interactivity, word highlighting and playful elements. It’s a series that we’re very excited about. Initial titles have done quite well.

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On digital rights

Today we’ll wrap up our exploration of electronic media with the issue of digital rights. Our chat with Michel Kripalani of Oceanhouse Media continues…

7.  How closely involved is Dr. Seuss Enterprises with creating the app?

Michel Kripalani: Dr. Seuss Enterprises owns all digital rights, so we were able to engage in licensing arrangements directly with them. They are very involved at the onset of each app and also at the stage of final review. They approve all voice-over actors and all aspects of each app. That said, the “middle 90%” where we go off and do our production work is generally all managed entirely by the Oceanhouse Media team.

8. In your licensing agreement with Dr. Seuss Enterprises, you absorb the costs of producing the app, from start to finish. You’ve already completed 16 out of 44 titles. How long does it take, on the average, to complete production of one story app?

Michel Kripalani: On average, we’ll spend about 8 weeks developing each omBook™,  now that the foundational technology is in place.  Multiple disciplines are involved during this time, including graphic designers, voice-over artists, sound effects artists and musicians, technical artists, programmers, management, and the licensor.

9. The Cat in the Hat app sells for $3.99, and is usable on any Apple mobile device — that is, iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. You sell a separate version for the Android. How many Dr. Seuss apps have you sold overall so far?

Tia plays on an iPad


Michel Kripalani: We’ve sold over 500,000 Dr. Seuss apps (in total) and we recently crossed the one million mark for paid app downloads at the App Store (all Oceanhouse Media apps). This is fairly astounding when you consider that the company is only 2 years old. Amazingly, just two and a half years ago, very few people had ever even heard of apps.

10.  What advice would you give to new and seasoned authors (and, if applicable, their agents) concerning electronic rights when they draw up contracts on their future books?

Michel Kripalani: When an author is in a position to keep physical and digital book rights distinct, we have found that it just makes sense for them to do so.

Oftentimes, an author may want to work directly with an app publisher on the digital versions of their books, regardless of who holds the print rights. There are major differences in competencies between a physical book publisher and a digital app developer / publisher. Authors need to ask themselves if they would be better served crafting deals appropriately.

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