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Archive for January, 2012

And people in the kids book trade complain about celebrity books. At least they don’t have to face Adam Sandler making Candy Land the game into Candy Land the movie.

I’m not sure if this is worse news for Sandler or the game…

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OK. Totally misleading headline. But NASA is having a new conference about materials from beyond the solar system on Tuesday the 31st. Maybe they found something from Cosmos Academy!

What’s CosmosAcademy? Well, if you read Earthling! (due out in July from Chronicle Books) you’ll find out. But the NASA press conference should be interesting in any case. Keep up with it at LiveScience.com. And read the first chapter of Earthling! online at Chronicle Books! Then you too will know what Cosmos Academy is!

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I’m finishing up a new picture book by author David LaRochelle, as I mentioned in a post last week. It’s about bad green beans. Or is it green beans who are bad? They are definitely not the good, quiet green beans that grandma grows in her garden. Above is a quick sample of the kind of green beans to expect in the book. It’s almost like the cast from an AMC or FX show ala Breaking Bad or Sons of Anarchy. But not one of these beans has a heart of gold! They are ALL Bad Beans.

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There’s been a lot more coverage about the Apple initiated iBooks Author program. I’ll post a few links to interesting articles and discussions. There is definitely a prevailing feeling that a lot of the text book companies early attempts are lacking in interactive features. Which I expect. But I also expect that to change over the next 18 months. This article at Apple Insider looks at some of the issues. It warns the conventional book publishers that basically providing a PDF where you flip pages is NOT what the audience is looking for. That alone is not a step into a new form of textbook that encourages interactive, student directed learning.

This is also an interesting new tool that will let you build Flash like animations utilizing Css3, so the animations can easily be dropped into iBooks Author. It’s by web developer Sencha.

And here is a review of iBooks Author (The new Apple application) that lets you build ebooks for the iBookstore for playback on an iPad. This is by Steven Sande and Erica Sadun who are ebook publishers. They wrote the following conclusion on the new iBooks Author application:

Conclusion

Let me reiterate one key point: iBooks Author is designed for creating textbooks. If you’re thinking about using it for other types of books, you can — but understand that this app may not necessarily be the tool you’re looking for if you want to create and sell books on all ebook platforms.

iBooks Author does a great job at what it’s designed for, and I think we’ll see a lot of incredibly interactive books hitting the iBookstore in the near future. Is it perfect? No. But for a first release of a new app, it’s pretty darned close.

There is a great discussion after their post on TUAW.

I’m going to dig into the app in the next week and see what I can do with a picture book project I have sitting here. It will be interesting to see what kind of interactive elements I can add using my set of digital tools.

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An interesting article in the New York Times by James Gorman about research into disgust.

I had never contemplated disgust as a psychological reaction that has cultural and perhaps evolutionary underpinnings. And as I think about it, it’s amazing how greatly it effects our lives.

I am often inspired to write a picture book (or a short story, or a comic book) because I am suddenly inspired to see an issue from a new, unexpected point of view. That’s always an exciting experience. And thinking about the human emotion/reaction of digest and how it effects human behavior at a very profound level is fascinating.

As the article points out, disgust plays a big part in our life. Who we like, who we love, who are friends are, what things we stay away from and what we eat are often guided by what we find disgusting or not. It can even become the basis for some moral and ethical attitudes.

I can only imagine how disgusting a snail finds a human being! “Human’s are  so dry and loud and they move so fast.” “And they never look where they are stepping!”

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I’ve already spent a lot of time talking with friends about the new Apple iBook Author App, the updated iBooks app, the updated ePub format and of course Apple’s textbook and educational product direction.

Of course there’s been an uproar about the license issues, but there’s always someone to freak out about Apple stuff. By the way, you can watch the full presentation here if you missed it. It’s very interesting.

I haven’t had much time to look at the authoring tool in detail and I know there are serious questions about technical aspects of the software and about distribution. For instance, it only makes books for Apple’s electronic store. And the templates are fairly limited, though with a little HTML 5 and JAVA script you can do a lot more if you want.

But It seems to be a pretty powerful tool for a FREE, version 1.0 piece of software.

I mean, there was very little in the way of native Dev. tools before this. So it’s a good place to start. I have no doubt that it will allow people to make some junk but it will also let a few people make something truly original and exciting. Something that wouldn’t make it through the vagaries of the large, corporate publisher or media company.

As we get more and better tools, the interactive/ebook market will be less dominated by the need for expensive expertise to generate a worthwhile e-book experience and will allow for the best content to stand out. We’ll get to see what resonates with a broad audience and what doesn’t based on the material/story. Not just the ability to get through the technical hurdles.

It will continue to stoke the fires about what a book is becoming. There is no doubt that in a hundred years books will be digested on a screen much more often than in a stack of dead tree pages. I’m not saying this is good or bad. Heck, in a hundred years I’ll be gone anyway.

But it’s exciting to see what individuals can do with a tool that allows publication and national distribution with a click of a button. My hope is that we might see a renaissance of content not unlike the underground press of the 1960’s. And we can use all the renaissances we can get these days.

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I watched The Lion King over the weekend with my daughter. I hand’t seen it in perhaps 9 years. A few things struck me -

- I am still realllllly tired of the Disney, broadway-musical-animated-movie combo. Why they were so beholden to that form I will never quite get…Thank goodness for Toy Story. When it came out it made it OK to make an animated film that didn’t channel 1956.

- It’s an oddly disconcerting film for a young viewer. My daughter had no idea why Scar didn’t like Simba and his dad. I think she needs to understand either Shakespeare or the history of Royal blood feuds. I’m just saying that the antagonist/protagonist relationship isn’t really all that dynamic or logical. Especially to a 43 year old…or a five year old.

- Do we really need more song and dance numbers? A good time to get some chips from the kitchen.

- By pushing the Baboon-shaman character into creating art and crafting utensils ETC, it really mixes up the anthropomorphic aspects of the story. I’m surprised he doesn’t carve a saxaphone and play it during one the musical interludes…

- They break the fourth wall for gags a few times and it’s just, really odd…funny asides in the middle of the film’s narrative feel really dated. It’s as if they didn’t trust the movie to truly entertain, so they keep winking, letting us know THEY know it’s JUST a silly animated film. They must have studied the On The Road films of Bob and Bing. But in those films breaking the fourth wall is is fine as they make little effort to construct a all encompassing world – they are just trying to entertain and they did it in 1940.

It was a touching, beautifully animated film that made clear the art form has come a longgg way since this was originally released.

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