It wasn’t too long ago when reading a book simply meant perusing through pages that were put together between a front and a back cover. 

Nowadays, thanks to computer technology, reading a book can mean a lot of things.  

With the advent of e-readers such as the Kindle and the Nook, not to mention Apple’s iPad tablet computer, e-books are becoming more and more popular. In fact, it was widely reported over the holiday season that e-books have begun to outsell their print counterparts. 

Ilow Roque, president and founder of La Jolla, Calif.,-based Rock House Press, has jumped aboard the e-book bandwagon. 

“E-publishing and interactive media are most definitely a wave of the future,” Roque told Our Sunday Visitor. “Whether it ultimately supplants traditional books remains to be seen.” 

Since 2009, Roque and his wife, Sheri, have been publishing traditional Catholic children’s books as well as developing electronic media and interactive learning materials. Their first venture has been their Happiness March Adventure Series. When completed, this three-volume set will follow the ups and downs of a group of meadowland animal pals. Their first book in the series, titled “The Purples Are Coming,” was released last March. 

Real-world experience 

In October, Rock House announced a collaboration with John Paul the Great Catholic University in San Diego, a small school with an emphasis on communications media and technology.  

Under this arrangement, students are getting real-life experience in putting their media training to work. 

Their first assignment has been developing an iPad application for Rock House’s second book, “The Bees are Missing.” Roque hopes to have the app ready and up for sale on Apple Store early this year. If all goes as planned, the hardcover children’s book will be released in the fall.  

Over these last few months, while collaborating with the students, Roque has had nothing but good things to say about their enthusiasm and creativity.  

“What has impressed me is to see college-age kids living the Gospel of Jesus Christ as faith-filled Catholics while at the same time mastering the tools and technologies that are very cutting [edge] in the world of the new media,” he told OSV.  

Sophomore Tim Lochner is one of four students assigned full time to the project as part of his class in computer programming. He was in charge of the sound and touch elements of the app, and also developed some slight animation such as a boat rocking back and forth.  

“I had never done something on this scale,” said Lochner. He added that the fact that this was a project that would go far beyond the classroom was a great experience. 

“We had to learn how to work with a client and together as a team [to keep] trying and retrying different things,” Lochner said. 

When it’s released, “The Bees are Missing” app will consist not just in an animated book. Lochner told OSV that he and his classmates have developed other interactive activities such as a puzzle that can be put together and pages that can be colored.  

Digital evangelization 

Kevin Meziere, the university’s director of information technology, has been equally enthused by this joint effort and how it developed during the fall semester. 

“This had been a great project for the students because the book ‘The Bees are Missing’ is well written and the images are beautiful,” he told OSV. “It has been easy for the students to sit and program and not have to worry about creating a story. When the students started ... most had no experience with computer code and programming. But because they were given a great starting point they have been able to develop an app in just 10 weeks.” 

Roque hopes that this first project is just the start of a long relationship with John Paul Catholic in efforts to evangelize this growing media population.  

“It’s a $10.5 billion market that is starved for authentic spiritual and human formation,” Roque told OSV. “We here at Rock House want to position ourselves to bring spiritual and virtuous elements to all new media venues. The iPad is just the beginning.” 

Eddie O’Neill writes from Wisconsin. For more information, visit www.rockhousepress.com.