Children's books of the future?

Written By Lingkar Dunia on Monday, January 16, 2012 | 2:02 PM

It's a book for kids
And it's different

It's an eBook -- but that's not what is different

It's also a cookbook -- but that is not what makes it different, either.

It's an eCookbook for Kids that's absolutely packed with apps.

But still that's not the difference.

The difference is that it's linked to a highly publicized film.

Somehow, I thought the ultimate eBook would be a dazzling production involving exotic travel, exotic animals, or classic art.  Never did I expect that it would be an eCookbook for children that not only entices them to turn cooking into a family experience, but encourages them to read. 

And it didn't ever cross my mind that it would be designed to accompany the release of a motion picture.

Creators of children's programs for TV and cinema are always keen to find ways to extend their marketing -- content that will make extra money out of creative licensing.  That's why bookstores go in for potentially profitable sidelines, such a stationery decorated with the latest cartoon characters, "Hello Kitty" and "Angry Birds" being a couple of the latest.  And that's why giant animation firms like DreamWorks are always on the lookout for innovative ideas that lead to yet more exposure for their films.

That's what led DreamWorks to a 16-strong team of creative programmers in Israel, called Castle-Builders, which has provided just what they are looking for -- an interactive cookbook, to accompany the release of Kung Fu Panda 2.  And, if they were looking for innovation, that's exactly what they got.  (I particularly like the truly imaginative trick of shaking the tablet to get a random recipe.)







This is definitely not a children's book the way I know it.  In fact, it is so far away from traditional children's print books that it's a different form of literature entirely.  

So, how did it come about? 

It began back in 2006, when 25-year-old Gili Abramovich, armed with a MBA degree from Israel's Colman College School of Business, and expertise in software development gained during his stint of military service, founded Castle-Builders.  This was a time when touch screen interactivity was science fiction territory, well before iPad, iPhone and Android, and yet Abramovich had  dreams that he was determined to turn into reality.

"Ever since I can remember I used to have ideas that I wanted to explore," he says. "I used to write them in a notebook; the digital book was simply the first I picked up and did something about. I felt that there was a trend and I just followed my instincts.  That brought me to the unique position we are in today - having our product highly interactive and compatible with the iPad, Android, Nook, PC and the Mac."

Interviewed via the miracle of the internet, his enthusiasm is almost palpable.  "As a kid, when reading a book, I was always waiting for the photo to come up every 4 pages," he confides. "That was why I thought that kids would love having an image on every single page - and since images simply do not cut it any more, I felt that every page should offer videos and animations. I wanted to create a whole world around every story, one that pulls the child into the story and keeps him mesmerized."

He calls it "a backdoor" way of getting children reading.

Perhaps he should call it a "kitchen door" way, because it gets them cooking, too.

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