Kiwa Digital's Rhonda Kite on how video is bringing books to life

For Rhonda Kite, founder of interactive book publisher Kiwa Digital, video is a marketing tool, a learning feature, and a way to add sign language to books.

I started off telling stories through television – Maori programmes and documentaries, bringing to life everything from Maori legends to life in Otara when I was a kid.

My creative philosophy has always been to “show, not tell” and that’s the basis behind the books we make at Kiwa Digital. When we first started creating books in 2009 we had to be mindful of the restrictions of broadband speeds in terms of streaming and downloads, and that put creative restrictions on us. We knew children needed instant feedback; if a feature took too long to download, or didn’t work, they weren’t going to come back to it.

We wanted to do these big wonderful books, but we had to pull ourselves back. Over the last two years the rollout of broadband has made a big difference. I see video not replacing our product, but being integrated more and more into it. For example, we’ve used video to introduce another language – sign language – into some of our books. Now deaf children and their classmates can learn to sign together using Hairy Maclary.

Another project involves bilingual English/Arabic comic books, with a video introduction telling people how to use them to enhance learning. When I’m designing a book, I’m thinking of how I can give access to this book to as many people as possible, including those with special needs, and video is a big part of that. It’s my TV production background coming out.

Video is also a cornerstone allowing us to penetrate international markets – telling the stories of what our company is doing and is able to do. We recently made a video about an indigenous language project we did in Alaska.

  • Rhonda Kite is a TV producer, founder of Kiwa Digital, Maori Businesswoman of the Year, and now CEO of Kiwa in the United Arab Emirates. 
  • This story originally appeared on The Download, a publication produced by Tangible Media for Chorus.