Michel Kripalani, a UC San Diego alumnus, is president of Oceanhouse Media, Inc., a leading publisher of apps for the mobile market. The company, which has released more than 280 apps, has worked with Dr. Seuss Enterprises to bring many of the beloved author’s works to the iPhone, iPad, and other mobile devices. According to Kripalani, a former member of the University Librarian’s Advisory Board, the company’s mantra is “Creativity with Purpose,” developing apps that uplift, educate, and inspire. In addition to its wildly popular Dr. Seuss apps, Oceanhouse Media has a wide and diverse offering of apps for games, music, photography, health and fitness, reference, and finance, as well as books. Oceanhouse Media is Kripalani’s third start-up.
Domain: While you were a student at UC San Diego, did you envision yourself going into a field like digital technology?
Michel Kripalani: Pre-medical biophysics was my declared major as a freshman. However, I changed majors to follow my passion for exploring storytelling in film, video, and other narrative media formats. Little did I realize the world was on the cusp of embracing interactive multimedia in the early 1990s. I loved the intersection of art and technology and immersed myself in it from the very beginning.
How did you first get interested in developing apps for children’s books?
In mid-2009, Oceanhouse Media had already been developing apps for a few months for both Hay House and Chronicle Books. Based on these early successes, we realized there was an opportunity to assist other traditional book publishers and authors adapt their content for mobile devices.
We reached for the brass ring and decided to contact Dr. Seuss Enterprises first. Through my affiliation with the UC San Diego Libraries, I was able to get an introduction directly to the people at DSE. Amazingly, we were able to land the rights to adapt the Dr. Seuss books as our first children’s book properties to publish.
In many ways, it is perfectly fitting. In the '30s, '40s and '50s, Dr. Seuss was pivotal in re-inventing the illustrated children’s book. Decades later, his works were pivotal yet again in the transition from traditional print medium to digital interactive books.
I see that you have two young daughters. Was your thinking about app development shaped by their reading and/or computer experiences?
When we started Oceanhouse Media, my wife and I had only one daughter. She was six weeks old. I find it fascinating that this business has grown as she has grown. As she was crawling, the business was crawling. As she was taking her first steps, the business was just starting to stand on its own. It has been amazing to watch how the two have evolved together.
We now have two young daughters and they do get a considerable amount of time on our iPhones and iPads. While they are computer savvy, and we often read to them on the iPad at bedtime rather than using a printed book, they have a well-stocked traditional book collection that they love to draw from when mommy or daddy are willing to read them a story.
Could you tell me a little bit about your relationships with some of your licensees, such as Dr. Seuss Enterprises and Hay House?
Each deal is about two or three years old. We started small and watched each blossom considerably.
When we began working with Hay House, we thought we would produce a dozen apps. We have now released over 100 Hay House apps.
When we first started working with Dr. Seuss Enterprises, we only had the rights to How the Grinch Stole Christmas and only for iPhone. The deal has since expanded to include the entire Dr. Seuss line of 44 classic books as well as iPad, Android and other platforms.
You’ve been a stalwart supporter of the Libraries over the years. While you are fully immersed in the digital world, are you a library lover as well? Do you think the traditional book will survive?
I do love libraries. I have fond memories of going to the library as a child and exploring the Central Library (now called Geisel Library) at UC San Diego. My daughters love libraries as well, and we do everything we can to encourage them to spend time at our local libraries.
I believe the traditional book will survive just as theater has survived in a world of TV and motion pictures. That said, the traditional book will most certainly evolve. There are certain classic titles that will always be available in print. For the rest, I see a time when most are digital-only from the very beginning. Personally, I don’t foresee a problem with that. It’s not about the medium. It’s about the content.
All Dr. Seuss app images provided by Oceanhouse Media