In the Spotlight with Lynette Mattke of PicPocket Books

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Back in the Fall of 2010, I was researching different app developers  to send my first children’s story to and I came across PicPocket Books and Lynette Mattke.  One of the things that caught my eye about the company was the vast variety of children’s picture books apps they offered.   I decided to give it a shot and sent in the Penelope the Purple Pirate text along with five illustrations to see if they were interested in making it into a storybook app.  I can still remember sitting at the computer when the email came in and Lynette said they would love to publish the story on the PicPocket Books platform and asked when could she get the rest of the illustrations!  I was SO excited that we would finally see Penelope as a storybook app.  Lynette had faith in Penelope and as an author you couldn’t ask for a better developer to work with!  Lynette was named one of the Top Mompreneurs of 2011 and has grown her company’s library to well over 100 storybook apps. She spoke to us about how the idea to start PicPocket Books came to be and what changes she has seen in the app industry over the last couple years.
 
Tell us how the idea to start PicPocket Books came about.
 

PicPocket Books was founded in 2009 as one of the early entrants into the children’s book app market on Apple’s iTunes. I started the company to offer parents and their kids an educational, engaging and valuable alternative to flashy, and sometimes violent, fast-paced video games, or repetitive videos. PicPocket Books has gained local and national recognition from media appearances on Fox 5 News TV, the Washington Post, Inc. Magazine, and was one of the first 14 companies selected by Kimberley Clark as a “Huggies ® MomInspired” company. I was also named one of the top 50 Mompreneurs of 2011 for my work in establishing and growing PicPocket Books.

My starting point was really a convergence of a couple of things. Like many users and developers, I was intrigued with the possibilities of the smartphone touchscreen and the relatively user-friendly SDK for iOS. My husband is an entrepreneur himself who had recently sold his software development firm, so I was used to the idea of building a business rather than working at a salaried 9-5 job. Also, he could offer significant help in building the custom platform we use to produce and publish our apps. When I founded PicPocket Books, it was still pretty early on in the beginnings of the iTunes App Store, so that was helpful. It has since become many times more competitive out there!

My initial responses from publishers were very positive. They were quite keen to explore the new market of picture book apps and to develop a digital strategy. 
 
What are some of the changes you have seen in the industry over the past couple years?
 
The app market overall is much more crowded than it was three years ago. There is so much content available, and it is  challenge as a consumer to sort through all of that and to find what you are looking for, especially in the educational space, to find the right apps for your kids or your students, if you are a teacher. A number of really good curated sites have evolved, and they are a real help in terms of finding apps that have been reviewed and rated. Some examples of those sites are Digital Storytime, the iMums, Melissa Northway’s app reviews, and the AppyMall from Tech in Special Ed.
 
I remember at the very beginning there was a big debate about print vs. digital, and by now I think that people realize that digital books are here to stay. I recently read an article that claimed that by now it is as important for companies to have a mobile app as it is for them to have  website.
 
As far as other changes over the years, of course there has been the introduction of new devices, with different sized screens, and higher resolution. Publishing picture books as ebooks or iBooks (as opposed to interactive apps) is also an option now, and that choice comes with different options for the publisher like fixed layout or non-fixed layout.
 
Tell us more about the Apps with Curriculum program you offer with some of your storybook apps.
 
 We are very excited to partner with Cyndie Seyborn, who brings her years of expertise as a teacher, to create the CCSS curriculum pages for our Apps With Curriculum. This additional content specifically targets with Common Core State Standard Curriculum goals with reading comprehension questions and discussion topics to guide teachers through one or more lessons that fit seamlessly with the Common Core Curriculum. The discussion topics really help bring out deeper topics and universal themes in the apps to enrich the reading experience.
 
The curriculum pages can be found either as extra pages at the end of the book app itself, or on Cyndie Seyborne’s website: http://sascynpublishing.com/, under the Apps With Curriculum tab. Whether you are a teacher or a parent, the curriculum pages are a really wonderful way to structure your exploration of the book apps.
 
Any news you want to share with Penelope’s mates?

We are currently working on a bunch of new titles, including a new one in the works by Melissa Northway. I’ll just give you the teaser that this Spring, you can expect lots of wild animals, circus animals and zoo animals in our new releases. PicPocket Books will also be releasing two apps that are re NOT book apps. One is a game for all ages – kids and adults – that combines images and words to solve puzzles. The other app is an educational exploration of soundscapes using the floral and fauna of the Costa Rican rainforest, the icy Glacier Bay, and more.

Thanks so much Lynette for your time.  Obviously we are big fans of PicPocket Books and love that the storybook apps they provide are stories filled with simple animation and sound effects that allow children to use their imagination as opposed to an app that does all the work! 

Make sure to stop by our Facebook Party we are hosting alongside Lynette of PicPocket Books and Cyndie Sebourn of Sascyn Publishing at our Apps with Curriculim Party on February 25th at 5-7pm PST. 

Here is the link to the party information: http://dandelionmoms.com/2013/02/apps-with-curriculum-facebook-party/

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Lynette.LMheadshotTo read more about PicPocket Books and see their vast library of wonderful storybook apps go to: www.picpocketbooks.com

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