Seated in the conference room of his lower Manhattan office/production studio, Nicholas Callaway, chairman and CCO of Callaway Digital Arts, talked about the future of publishing and of his publishing house. "We're at a new juncture," Callaway said, surveying past editions of the company's lavishly illustrated books placed around the room, "where character, story, play, social media, and e-commerce are all woven together. A traditional book just doesn't satisfy this."
Now he's on topic—specifically the transformation of Callaway from a print house to a multimedia studio—offering a vision of the book industry's transition "to the multimedia era, an era profoundly different in more ways than just how you treat content." Callaway gave PW a tour of his Fulton Street office—8,900 square feet that includes spacious brick-walled, light-filled digital production studios—showing off the results of $6 million in financing from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers iFund, a venture capital firm specializing in new ventures for Apple's iOS platform.
The Kleiner Perkins investment is funding the simultaneous construction of multimedia Callaway studios in New York and San Francisco. Callaway has just released Martha Stewart Makes Cookies for iPad, the first in a series of apps that Callaway will produce and publish for Martha Stewart, and he showed off both the working space and the staff arrayed around it.
"About 10 years ago, we started building a digital matrix of Callaway content that can be used across many platforms," Callaway said. "We wanted to bring the same level of print quality to new media. We just needed a convergent device—and then the iPad arrived." Impressed by early versions of Callaway's multimedia kids' work, Miss Spider's Tea Party, Apple CEO Steve Jobs brought Callaway Editions to Cupertino to test the app and have it ready for the iPad's launch back in April.
Now the New York studio is up and running with a staff of 25 people that's set to rise to 40 by early 2011, the same time the San Francisco studio should be complete, adding another 30 staffers on the West Coast. "We're building studios on two coasts because the technology is developing at warp speed," Callaway explained, noting the importance of having a studio close to the locus of West Coast tech development.
But Callaway's New York studio is a snapshot of a book publisher morphing into an "app publisher." With team leaders' glass-walled offices at one end of the studio, editors at the other end, and in-house programmers and designers seated on opposite walls in between—Callaway also uses programmers in Europe and Nantucket Island and PW sat in on a Skype conference call to Sweden—the studio is lively as staffers "constantly crisscross the room to talk and fight with each other," Callaway joked. "We have the full array of tech and creative people all in one place." Teams were at work on an iPhone/iPod version of the Stewart cookie app they plan to release by Christmas, and Callaway showed PW an early version of a new kids' app that transformed Jon Stone and Michael Smollin's Sesame Street book, The Monster at the End of This Book, into a cleverly interactive combination of animation and comics.
"We're rethinking the book. The way you connect with a multimedia audience is different. User engagement, and how to keep it, will determine what your content is," Callaway said, noting the ability to receive an ongoing stream of consumer-use data after an app is purchased. "Digital offers a seamless web of content, goods, and services that will unhinge a lot of traditional book practices," Callaway said. "We're just at the beginning of learning how to create deep, immersive multimedia content."