German publisher Bastei Lübbe has launched mobile storytelling platform Oolipo, dubbed "the offspring of a love-affair between Netflix, YouTube, and a Snapchat Story".
The Berlin-based startup - in the works since 2015, when it was shortlisted for a Futurebook BookTech Award - was co-founded by Johannes Conrady and Ryan Mullins to offer storytelling experiences "somewhere between watching a book and reading a movie" using mobile technology.
The platform is now available to download as an app on iOS, with the Android version scheduled to follow on in early summer.
The company said it is "particularly aimed at millennials" and will help authors and self-publishers save time on developing apps for books by providing them with the tools do to it simply. Its long-term goal is to become a "central hub" for the next generation of authors.
"There are no comparable products on the market, and we know that we are entering new territory. But we are convinced that the idea of bringing multimedia formats to smartphones via a digital platform has enormous potential", said Thomas Schierack, c.e.o. of Bastei Lübbe AG. "Here, we at Bastei Lübbe can fully utilise our 60 years of unique experience with story content for every age group", he added.
The new entertainment platform will also offer so-called "Oolipo Originals", which are in-house productions developed in the Oolipo format and optimised for use on smartphones.
Targetting the UK, German, Austrian and Swiss markets, it has so far developed eight English language and four German language series, including "London I", an Original produced by the British Youtube star Suli Breaks, and "The Message" from Bastei Lübbe author Tibor Rode. It is also offering a four-episode series called "Get used to it", with the app, telling the story of an international NGO whose goal is to introduce young women to the sport of skateboarding.
Intending to build its international presence "step by step", the company said stories "particularly attractive for the US market and other English-speaking countries" will follow later this year or early 2018.
Oolipo's pricing model asks users to purchase credits in the app that can then be exchanged for individual episodes or whole seasons of Oolipo series; one episode of an oolipo Original costs 90 credits (the equivalent to 90 euro cents) and users are given a taste of each series with a free first episode. After registering, users automatically receive 250 "welcome bonus" credits to use, too, to get them started.
Schierack said he could only speculate on what take-up the app would have. "Our goal is to push user numbers to a seven-digit range by the end of 2019. But we are also fully aware that it is almost impossible to make realistic forecasts of which parts will be popular with readers and how quickly," he said.
The functionality of the Oolipo app will be continually expanded and the company says it is currently seeking additional funding to expand the team and expedite its creation tools.