Startups

TNT: MobiStories children books entertain anywhere

What does the color green sound like when it swooshes? Rick Toone and the rest of the crew at Doylestown-based MobiStories could tell you. “We get wrapped up in all these little details,” he says, that go into creating the business’s interactive children’s books made for PCs and mobile devices. The more-than-40 available MobiStories titles […]


What does the color green sound like when it swooshes? Rick Toone and the rest of the crew at Doylestown-based MobiStories could tell you.
“We get wrapped up in all these little details,” he says, that go into creating the business’s interactive children’s books made for PCs and mobile devices.
The more-than-40 available MobiStories titles don’t feature any animation, but rotating thought bubbles, transitioning story text and high-quality voice acting help keep kids’ attention. They’re designed as if someone is reading right from the book.

The titles can be viewed on personal computers, iPhone and iPod touch devices, and any mobile device that plays .m4v files. The books range from $4.99 and up. There’s even a few free titles, like Salsa for Kittens and Puppies, which includes some elementary Spanish lessons. There’s also sets of books available on DVDs and a monthly membership option where members get a free book and access to 3 streaming titles.
Toone, the company’s co-founder and creative director, says that MobiStories formed about four years ago after a trip to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Though video hadn’t yet been implemented on the iPod, he and his co-founders saw an opportunity to create children’s books in an interactive medium.
The founders have an active background in the film industry, and between them have won two Emmy awards and an Academy Award. It just so happens that they all have kids, too. “As a parent you get tired of telling children to turn their video games off,” he says. “Mommy-bloggers call us guilt-free babysitting.”
When they first started approaching publishers, Toone says many laughed at the notion. So the team focused on authors that owned the rights to their work and were willing to take a chance on their titles.
“It’s another revenue stream for them. It doesn’t cost them anything to turn over their property, and it’s a revenue share so they get a piece of whatever is sold.”
Some of the more traditional writers didn’t quite grasp what Toone and company were trying to sell. But as they pushed the idea of “book theater”—instead of animated books—it started to make sense to them.
Toone says it helped, too, that the company’s background in television and film gave them experience converting print to multimedia, making sure to properly scan, optimize, color-correct and resize for the variety of portable devices they support.
It’s been a successful venture, so far. Between May and September last year, MobiStories saw 20,000 iPhone app downloads. Apple’s App Store has been a “huge success” for the company, Toone says.
So, is a BlackBerry app next? Not so fast, business power parents.
“It’s a different demographic. BlackBerrys are still thought of as a business tool. Apple is the big dog,” he says.
Every Monday, Technically Not Tech will feature people, projects, and businesses that are involved with Philly’s tech scene, but aren’t necessarily technology focused. See others here.

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