Q&A: Developing Seattle Aquarium’s Edwin the Super Duper Otter iBook
Q: Tell us about the project.
We were working with our long-time client the Seattle Aquarium on a new brand campaign for 2012 that included outdoor advertising and radio. Both are good for awareness, but we wanted to see if we could find a way to also generate real engagement with families. So we came up with the idea to create a fictional childrens ebook that took place in the Seattle Aquarium that could be something kids and parents could share and enjoy together.
Q: How did you do it?
We mixed a playful narrative with Aquarium content: our then copywriter [now Creative Director] Mike Hayward wrote the story. We hired a young freelance illustrator to ink and develop early concepts of what became Edwin the Otter. Then our in house art director colored and finished the illustrations. Our team worked with the Aquarium to source multimedia: videos of creatures in action; high resolution photos of different Aquarium creatures. We also got to work with the Aquarium’s biologists on the sea otter fun fact quizzes.
As we started out we began to run up against the limitations of the EPUB format. For a while we were going to do a Winnie the Pooh type layout with illustration and text on alternating pages. Short of building a native application to handle the video and other branded content, that was all that was feasible within the budget. So when iBooks Author came out, right as we were moving into production, we decided to produce the book for iPad using iBooks Author. It enabled an easy production solution on the most popular multi-touch platform. To make the book available to the widest audience we also created a PDF version for download at seattleaquarium.org.
Q: What did you learn?
What’s possible, what’s easy, and what’s hard for today’s multimedia tablets. We hope to produce future multi-touch books for Kindle Fire and the Android tablets but as it stands they don’t yet have the market share or authoring tools to give us scale and feasibility for a project like this. The iTunes store is a great merchandising platform for branded content. If you produce something of quality, they do a good job promoting your piece: we have been featured above the fold in new and noteworthy children’s books for several months and spent some time in the top ten. Six months after release, Edwin continues to get 300 downloads a day without any traffic drivers other than iTunes and the Aquarium website.
Amazon recently released a set of HTML5 tools for Kindle Fire, so we’ll be digging in and hopefully get a multi-touch book in the Kindle store on a future project.
Q: Advice for first timers?
Start with a script or a table of contents or some other linear format and don’t create an overly complicated navigation scheme, treating the book like a website. Create a cover image that works well as a thumbnail, this will help you merchandise in iTunes.
Edwin the Super Duper Otter on iTunes
Stats from launch day April 18 through September 12, 2012:
- - 41,926 downloads over 20 weeks in iTunes store
- - 73 iTunes store ratings with an average 4.5 of 5 stars