Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Auryn's Founder on Storytelling Opportunities

We heard from author-illustrator Sue Shanahan last month about her beautiful new app, Love You to the Moon and Back, from award-winning app producer Auryn. This week dotMomming features Umesh Shukla, founder and CEO of Auryn, to find out more about the app market, picture books, and children's literacy.

Kirkus Reviews calls the Auryn team "some of the best developers in the business." And through collaborations with legendary children's authors like Rosemary Wells, it is establishing itself as a serious player in the highly competitive children's app market. Readers who are not yet familiar with Auryn's books can get up to speed quickly this month as Auryn plans to give away a free picture book app every day in celebration of National Reading Month.

dotMomming: You have come out with some lovely apps based on print picture books, such as Don Freeman's stories (Hattie the Backstage Bat, Inspector Peckit), the Teddy books, and the Miko series. Can you explain how this model – creating enhanced, interactive books out of existing print books – is successful for an app producer?

Umesh Shukla: In any content business, working with an established brand always helps; even more, when a new format like the tablet comes along. We have been fortunate to have worked with numerous established brands. It has mutually benefited both us and these brands. While we get an opportunity to showcase our capabilities with the help of these brands, they get Auryn’s expertise in maintaining their brand value, while transforming their intellectual properties to a new medium.

DM: Do you see Auryn opening the door to original stories from new authors and illustrators? Why or why not?

US: Absolutely. Every new device presents some very unique, device-specific storytelling opportunities, and we are very keen to move in that direction with the right creative partners.

DM: Auryn is one of the first producers out of the starting gate. How has that worked in your favor? Now that the bigger houses such as Scholastic are entering into app-land, what does that mean for smaller independents such as Auryn?

US: It’s still an emerging field. We believe there is plenty of room for players both big and small. Having bigger players enter the field simply establishes the validity of the new format, and helps everyone involved in creating content for that medium.

DM: What type of books do you see Auryn creating  strictly picture books for young readers, or older interactive books for middle-schoolers, too? What do you hope to accomplish as a producer of enhanced books for kids?

US: Currently our focus is in picture books, as they allow us to showcase our patented rendering technology. But we are in the storytelling business and do plan to open ourselves to other genres in coming months/years.

DM: Can you speak to literacy learning? How do you see the uptake of books and learning changing for young readers as more classrooms open up to digital media? And where do picture book apps such as the ones Auryn produces fit in?

US: I am very excited by the emerging opportunities new devices offer in every kind of learning. School bags are going to get much lighter. Now abstract concepts can be presented in so many subtle and interesting ways to help a child grasp them better. The learning possibilities are enormous.

A small example of it would be the inclusion of pronunciation guides in our apps. While the child is reading the story, he or she can learn to relate the sound to the words. I think we are lucky to be working in a medium that is being defined and redefined everyday. We hope to play a big part in shaping its future.

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