When Oliver Chin—an author who previously worked for several book publishers—decided to start his own small press in 2005, he mashed up the words “medium” and “immediate” and launched Immedium in San Francisco.
“Our goal is to publish books that get positive first impressions and great reactions from readers,” Chin said. “Fresh characters and appealing stories are our driving forces.” But as much as Immedium is dedicated to the printed word, Chin is well aware that books can be a launching pad for other applications. So, last November, Immedium became the first publisher to sign on with A Story Before Bed, a Web site founded by three former Microsoft employees that allows people to record themselves reading printed books, to then share with a child.
Immedium's nonexclusive deal with A Story Before Bed allows all of its appropriate titles to be featured on the site where anyone—absent parents (perhaps in the military), grandparents, or even siblings—can record themselves reading the books for a one-time $6.99 fee. The software allows children to page through the book as the recording plays, and it can be played over and over again.
A Story Before Bed cofounder Hillel Cooperman said that Chin immediately recognized the software's potential to add value to the book experience. “We saw a kindred spirit in Oliver,” said Cooperman. Chin also helped A Story Before Bed develop its nonexclusive language for the publisher partnerships it is working to build. (Charlesbridge Publishing also has a number of titles on the site.)
Chin said he liked the idea of working with Cooperman and his partners, given their Microsoft backgrounds, and was impressed with the quality of the books on the site. To Chin, A Story Before Bed is just one way e-books can offer a new experience for young readers.
Not that Chin or Immedium wants to totally give up the printed book.
Wearing Two Hats
Immedium publishes about four books each year (almost exclusively picture books), and in addition to founding the company, Chin is the author of its Tales from the Chinese Zodiac series—The Year of the Tiger, illustrated by Justin Roth, was released this month in time for the Chinese New Year. Chin and Roth also teamed up for another recent Immedium picture book, Balthazar and the Flying Pirates. Chin cut his publishing teeth in 1991 in a training program at Simon & Schuster, and his résumé also includes stints at Alibris, Viz Media, and North Atlantic Books, where he was director of sales and marketing.
In addition to Chin's two recent picture books, last fall Immedium added a fourth book to its Octonauts series, written under the pen name Meomi by the two-person author and illustrator team of Vicki Wong and Michael Murphy. Chin describes the style of the books, in which eight creatures occupy an octopus-shaped underwater base, as “Hello Kitty meets Jacques Cousteau.”
At a recent Octonauts event at Book Passage in Corte Madera, Calif., children's book buyer Susan Kunhardt said that children were as mesmerized with the authors' art and explanation of how they created the book as they were by the cacophony of undersea voices Murphy created to go with the story.
Fans of Meomi's aesthetic should pay attention to the mascots featured in the Vancouver Games. They are not the Octonauts, but they are Meomi's creations. Chin called Meomi's winning an Olympic contract to create the mascots a “feather in their cap,” and said it shows the potential for artists if their work is available in any form—as characters in traditional books or in stories read by a loved one far away and delivered electronically.
“We just all need to be ready to serve our content up that way,” said Chin.