According to kidthing CEO Larry Hitchcock, “Historically, parents have always been in control of the content their children view. The Web took that away. What kidthing does is return that control to the parent.” His company has created an alternative to Web surfing: a downloadable digital media platform that lives on the computer and offers an activity center for kids ages three to 10, largely centered around digital books. Kidthing, based in Los Angeles, also offers publishers a way to retain complete control of the rights to their books while selling them digitally.

The kidthing program is a digital media player, like iTunes, with a bunch of extra features. After downloading the free player from, users can purchase content—like Dr. Seuss’s Horton Hears a Who ($7.99) and Jerry Pallotta’s Icky Bug Alphabet Book ($4.99)—from the kidthing store. (Parents are able to set the program access so that their kids can’t make purchases.) Other products, such as games and videos, are also available through kidthing. The digital books come equipped with format-specific extra features, such as character animation, narrations by professional actors and other ways of interacting with the text and illustrations. Kidthing also designs games to accompany the books—like a digital Horton coloring book—using its own technology. Last month, kidthing signed deals with Seuss Enterprises and Charlesbridge, and deals are in the works with major publishers, Hitchcock said.

“Kidthing is a secure platform. It really gives publishers the tools to feel that they’re securely moving their properties into the digital environment,” Hitchcock explained. The company works closely with its partner publishers to develop the digital version of the book and its associated products, which are viewable only through the kidthing platform. Kidthing also offers sophisticated tracking software that lets publishers know how their books are selling, and even how many times they are viewed in the player.

Shortly, kidthing will roll out features that will allow users to share samples of content with online “friends” and to make custom mixes of uploaded personal content, such as photos, and downloaded kidthing content.

Downloadable Audiobook Bestsellers: February 2008
Oprah remains all-powerful, even over audiobooks: her book club pick, A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle, and her pick of presidential candidates, Barack Obama, top the bestsellers at these three e-tailers.

iTunes eMusic
1 A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose (Unabridged) Eckhart Tolle Penguin Audio A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose (Unabridged) Eckhart Tolle Penguin Audio The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts On Reclaiming the American DreamBarack Obama Random House Audio
2 The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts On Reclaiming the American DreamBarack Obama Random House Audio Duma Key (Unabridged) Stephen King S&S Audio The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the GalaxyDouglas Adams Random House Audio
3 The AppealJohn Grisham Random House Audio The Pillars of the Earth (Unabridged) Ken Follet Penguin Audio America (The Audiobook) Jon Stewart Hachette Audio

LibreDigital Adds Custom Component
LibreDigital, the digital warehousing and rights management company owned by NewsStand, has just announced a new service called eCompile. The program allows publishers to sell custom books made from content in any of their digitized titles, while still maintaining rights control. According to Craig A. Miller, v-p and general manager of LibreDigital, two publishers have already signed up for the service, though he declined to disclose their names. One of them plans to use the service to sell both custom digital and print books using POD technology.

LibreDigital’s most visible project right now is HarperCollins’s BrowseInside, which allows potential buyers to flip through digital versions of HC books on HC’s Web site or through widgets. (Harper also bought a minority stake in NewsStand.) LibreDigital also recently adapted the service for use on the Apple iPhone.