To carve out a place in your industry, you sometimes need to enter untapped markets. That’s what the congenial professional duo of Véronique Fontaine and Prune Lieutier did. Together, they founded La Boîte à pitons, a company that produces and publishes interactive books, a new format on the border between print and screen.
“This project has been near and dear to me for a long time,” says Véronique, whose publishing house Fonfon produces traditional books for youths. “I wanted to get into the digital book market but with something more substantial than a simple static e-book. The problem was that I had very little experience. And one day: TA-DA! I received a resume.” It was Prune’s. She was doing a post-graduate degree on interactive books and was looking for a traineeship opportunity.
“She has all the skills I don’t have!” thought Véronique. They met and got along like a house on fire.
“We realized just how strong we would be if we worked together.”
The similarity between their project and Prune’s area of research allowed them to get a grant from Mitacs, a company that brings together universities and businesses. “That enabled us to work on a grant request for the Canada Media Fund,” says Prune. “I was the one who received their acceptance e-mail. End of day Thursday or Friday. I called Véronique and told her we got it. Her reaction was very funny: she asked me if I was kidding her. No,” says Prune, “that would’ve been a cruel joke.”
So they founded La Boîte à pitons, an entity separate from Véronique’s publishing house, and undertook to adapt three current books from the Fonfon collection into interactive applications. Right from the start, they partnered with Christian Lebel, of Akufen studio, who became their technology director. “Christian is our favourite geek,” say both Véronique and Prune. “We dreamt of unicorns and rainbows and all sorts of gadgetry,” confides Véronique. “And Christian, who understands all the programming involved, brought us back down to earth.”
The final product is fun and multifaceted: kids can read the book with or without narration, create their own stories by reusing objects and characters encountered previously, and record their own voices to bring their stories to life.
This is a fun application for kids, and parents are impressed with it. The project, however, was full of challenges for La Boîte à pitons, starting with distribution channels.
“It’s difficult to break through on the Google and Apple platforms,” states Prune. “What’s more, we can’t enter library collections.”
The two entrepreneurs, however, have unwavering faith in their project and plenty of enthusiasm – and they will forge ahead against all odds!