May 17, 2011, Updated September 12, 2012

Founded by an Israeli father, Touchoo enables publishers to make children’s books come alive through the iPhone and iPad.

Omer Ginor

Omer Ginor of Touchoo gained insights from his own toddler.

Kids love them and can’t keep their fingers from fiddling with the attractive “buttons,” and that’s why parents — and modern grandparents — hand over their iPhones and iPads to keep the youngsters occupied.

They’ll be happy to know that a wealth of new digital content, in the form of children’s books, has now gone digital for the younger generation to explore with eyes wide open and fingers tapping touch screens. A new Israeli company is planning to launch opportunities for kids’ book publishers into the stratosphere, or at least to the height of Jack’s beanstalk.

Omer Ginor, an Israeli entrepreneur, says he can’t keep his one-and-a-half-year-old son from playing games on the iPhone and iPad that he claims to keep at home for “research purposes”.

As the CEO of Touchoo, a high-tech company that makes interactive touch-screen books available as apps, he studies his toddler’s enthusiasm for using the touch screen, hoping to make better quality learning tools for kids and adults alike.

Founded in 2010, the self-financed company based in Ramat Gan has already been featured on USA Today for its own content, a digital children’s book that can be downloaded on iTunes.

Touchoo presentation at TWS

Omer Ginor explains Touchoo’s app that helps publishers create children’s books for touch-screen technologies.

However, Ginor says his company doesn’t intend to be a content producer, but to enable huge publishing houses, as well as small self-publishers, to access the growing market of digital children’s books — books that play songs as children press the flowers in the forest, or animate dancing characters when a page is flipped. Just about anything the storybook author and designer imagine can be integrated into the new digital story.

An affordable launch pad for publishing

Some publishers, Ginor says, have been scanning original favorites like Puss ‘n Boots or Cinderella as they appear in the print version. But any extra little bit of coding costs a pretty penny: “Usually the quotes go from $20,000 to $150,000 and sometimes those numbers are even in [British] pounds for creating one or two platforms online, or just for the iOS – the iPhone operating system.”

Why so much? “Because it’s individual coding. Every little object, sound bite and animation needs to be coded into the project. Developers are expensive, especially in Europe, and can cost $10,000 a month easily.”

Rather than choose one, or carry a huge expense by developing on simultaneous platforms like iPad and Android, Touchoo offers publishers a handy set of tools, much in the same way blogging software like WordPress has allowed the public to self-publish. No complicated knowledge of coding is needed. Touchoo does the work and lets the publishers reap the profits.

Although the company’s platform is fully functional, it will only be available for publishers and independent storywriters in a few months. Basic services will be free, while premium features and sound bites, or special accompanying game features, will be available for a fee.

Touchoo also makes a difference in the area of distribution. Once a digital book is uploaded to the iTunes store, publishers may never recoup their investment. Generally only the top books on iTunes get downloaded, ones with a brand-name appeal like Disney, Sesame Street or Dr. Seuss, meaning even the most exceptional children’s stories, classic or new, can get buried in digital dust.

No competition for Kindle

Ginor doesn’t think this new mode of interactive and colorful book reading will put the bland and monochrome e-ink devices out of business. “These are two difference verticals: the Kindle and e-book readers are still very much needed. There will be a market for them for a while to come,” he says.

“They are targeting the adult vertical — a text-based book with no interaction. This is something you’ll want to have with you on a trip of two weeks and not worry about battery life. For this, the Kindle or e-ink-based technology is a great solution. If you are a kid, you probably want interactivity and touch. The Kindle won’t be for this market.”

The Touchoo business model was formulated to be attractive for clients. The company of 10 people has plans for rolling out a launching forum for new digital titles and plans on splitting revenues with the publisher, while taking no stake in the copyright. The potential market includes publishers, organizations, intellectual property holders – even art gallery owners.

While the company is focusing on children’s publishing, virtually any kind of virtual interactive or static book could be created with Touchoo software.

Will this make our kids smarter, or at least prepare them early for life as digital natives? “The platform we are creating is to make books and distribution channels to the parents, grandparents and teachers who want kids to benefit – to make interactive picture books and educational books,” says Ginor.

Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood and Tom Thumb would be proud.

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