Digital books more than child's play

CLAIRE ROGERS
Last updated 05:00 18/04/2011
INTERACTIVE READING: Rhonda Kite says QBooks will soon become 100 per cent of Kiwa Media's business. The books come with sound effects.
PHIL DOYLE
RHONDA KITE: Hopes to double the 200,000 downloads QBook has had so far in the year ahead.

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Auckland firm Kiwa Media says it has backed a winner 18 months after taking a punt on the new digital publishing market.

The eight-person company converts print books into QBooks – interactive digital colour books for touchscreen devices such as the iPad and iPhone.

President Rhonda Kite says the company began as a post-production software and solutions firm but QBooks will soon become 100 per cent of its business.

The digital books let readers swipe text to have it read out, tap words to hear them spoken and double-tap them to have them spelled out.

Children can colour in virtual illustrations and record themselves reading.

QBooks can be published in, and translate stories into, many languages, the most common being English, Maori, Spanish, Portuguese, Mandarin and Japanese, Ms Kite says.

"We bring it alive by adding music and sound effects. We make mini-movies out of our books."

Kiwa has converted 60 titles into QBooks including Hairy Maclary from Donaldson's Dairy, Margaret Mahy's A Summery Saturday Morning, and The Wotwots story Lanky Landing Legs.

Downloads since the QBooks launch last April have reached almost 100,000.

Clients include Penguin New Zealand, Scholastic New Zealand, Australian publisher Hinkler Books and Anne Geddes.

United States Christian book publisher Zondervan, owned by HarperCollins, has commissioned up to 100 QBooks from Kiwa.

The company takes a cut of sales – QBooks retail on the iTunes site for US$4.99 – and charges publishers a development fee. QBooks can be downloaded only to Apple touchscreen devices but from July will be available for Android devices and PC and Mac computers.

The technology for QBook came from the company's VoiceQ software, which synchronises audio with text to let people accurately dub voice on to film and was used for The Narnia Chronicles: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.

Kiwa Media is the New Zealand finalist in the e-learning and education category of the World Summit Awards.

The privately owned company, which is seeking investment, has just signed a contract with the Oxford University Press in Australia to convert more than 100 educational books for emerging readers into the QBook format.

QBooks are not to be confused with e-books, Ms Kite says. "QBook stands alone in that it's an interactive, multilingual, multi-functional application. It's really one of the most sophisticated products of its kind."

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- BusinessDay.co.nz

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