ENCINITAS — In 1985, UCSD freshman Michel Kripalani rolled the dice and took a chance on himself. In doing so he defied his father who had long dreamt of his son becoming a physician.
“My father was an engineer originally from India who worked for several companies,” he said. “He wanted me to be independent and in his mind being a doctor was the best way to get there.”
Taking Latin his first quarter in college convinced Kripalani that he had made a mistake, so he decided to change majors from premed to visual arts-media.
His gamble eventually paid off with a succession of ventures that culminated in 2009 with the founding of Oceanhouse Media, based in Encinitas. Today, Kripalani is making history as well as money with the release of the entire Dr. Seuss collection for the digital market.
Dr. Seuss book apps for iPods, iPhones and iPads are currently available on iTunes for $3.99 each. There are also cameras and card decks priced at $1.99 and games for $0.99.
“We’re creating high-quality products at a cost that consumers are happy with,” Kripalani said. “With the old model where books cost between $8 and $15, it would have been prohibitive to own the whole Dr. Seuss library. But with apps it’s entirely possible. As an added bonus, you have them with you all the time.”
Kripalani attributes the cost savings to bypassing publishing houses and bookstores. He says that many publishers aren’t thrilled with the new, digital model. A notable exception is HarperCollins’ Zondervan, one of the largest Christian publishers in the world. They licensed the Berenstain Bears to Oceanhouse Media in digital form.
“They realized they were book publishers, not software publishers,” he said. “It’s easier to start a company from scratch with software guys then to take a tanker ship and turn it around to become a software company.”
Kripalani’s “software guys” are fellow UCSD alumni, Greg Uhler, class of 1994; and Trevor LeVieux, class of 2010.
Uhler is development director and has been with Kripalani since the early 1990s when they started Presto Studios together. The company is best known for The Journeyman Project, a trilogy of award-winning science fiction adventure games and Myst III: Exile. Many of these products are still on the market.
LeVieux is part of the team responsible for adapting Dr. Seuss’ stories from the book to an interactive format, a process which is more difficult than it seems.
“You have to be technically minded, creative and visual, and think like a storyteller,” Kripalani said. “When people experience it we want them to think, ‘That’s exactly the way it was.’”
Kripalani said his decision to take another career path than what his father planned resulted in a strained relationship for several years. The two reconciled prior to the senior Kripalani’s death 13 years ago. Kripalani is confident his father would approve of the work he does today.
He adds that he decided on a visual arts-media degree because there was no such thing as interactive media classes in the late 1980s.
“My computer skills were gained through a combination of self-study, a few independent study courses and a very key internship that I had my senior year,” he explained.
Kripalani offers this advice to young people:
“If you want to be on the cutting edge, learn how to educate yourself. By the time classes are available for any given ‘new technology; too many people are already trying to do the same thing.”
Currently, 12 books in the Dr. Seuss library have been released. With an average of one to two books scheduled for release every month. Kripalani projects that it will take 18 to 24 months for the entire series to be available for purchase.
For product demonstrations or more information, visit oceanhousemedia.com. Additional demos can be viewed at youtube.com/user/OceanhouseMedia.