iPad app makes kids books interactive

L.A.-based Auryn soups up 'Teddy Bear,' 'Mermaid'

Coming to Apple’s App Store next month are iPad apps that are a cross between an e-book and animation. While dazzling to consumers, these new forms of multimedia entertainment are creating new challengers for dealmakers.

Using software by Los Angeles-based Auryn, the apps turn children’s books into e-books, with their original illustrations put into motion as animation.

These apps keep the original text but add interactive elements and moving illustrations. The result is more animated than an e-book and more interactive than a cartoon.

The first apps using Auryn’s technology will hit the App Store in November, including interactive versions of two books in the “What Does My Teddy Bear Do All Day?” series. The reader can trigger animation by touching the screen. An onscreen teddy bear even flops around if the iPad is shaken.

The third app will apply the process to “The Little Mermaid,” with illustrations by watercolorist Lisbeth Zwerger.

Michael Neugebauer, publisher of Minedition, the imprint behind “Little Mermaid” and the “Teddy Bear” series, told Daily Variety that he believes this tech will transform publishing. He said he saw its power to captivate kids when he showed the “Teddy Bear” app to a nearly 2-year-old boy.

“He instantly knew how to operate it, and he got so excited he would cry when it (was taken) away from him. We gave him the (print) book, and when he touched the same points, it didn’t work, so he threw the book away and pointed to the iPad,” Neugebauer said.

Disney has also introduced a similar multimedia app for an original story, “Winnie the Pooh: What’s a Bear to Do?” as part of a Puzzle Book app. The Disney app keeps the look of the original illustrations.

Efforts to create more of these kinds of apps have been slowed by the difficulty in securing necessary rights.

Creating a multimedia app requires holding several rights that are normally distributed separately: book rights, audiobook rights and digital rights. In the case of some older books, multimedia and digital rights may never have been addressed in publishing deals.

In decades past, “Nobody knew about this market,” said Stanford U. law professor Paul Goldstein, an expert on intellectual property law.

Goldstein said that while the rule of thumb is that the author retains any rights not specifically given up, that’s not always the case.

“In all cases, you have to figure out whether the person you’re negotiating with has rights that encompass what you’re planning to do,” he said. If digital rights didn’t transfer to the publisher, Goldstein explained, the publisher must find the original author/illustrator, or the successor, and hope that person still has them.

Disney has avoided these issues by using a property it owns and an original story for which no rights were ever sold.

Auryn execs are in talks with major publishers — including HarperCollins, Hachette, Scholastic and Simon & Schuster — to use the process on other books.

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