Augmented Reality in a New Generation of Kids Books

Will augmented reality in picture books significantly change the way children read?

Olaf waves at the reader's camera

A book’s illustration springs into interactive life thanks to augmented reality tech.

Maybe, maybe not. But AR will certainly give parents – and teachers – another tool to make books and reading relevant to children, especially reluctant readers. Indeed, AR may increase the enthusiasm some readers have for books and actually help beginning readers to learn language basics.

While it is early days in the AR book business, our experience with it here at Mercury Connects suggests that it will prosper as publishers and readers grasp its potential.

But first I should explain how augmented reality works in books. Continue reading

Free Himalaya book: update

donate money to the Red Cross Nepal fundTwo days after Pat and Baiba Morrow announced their offer of free copies of their “Heart of the Himalaya,” 94 people have downloaded the multimedia ebook from iTunes.

The Morrows have asked recipients of their book to please make a donation to the Red Cross’ Nepal Region Earthquake Fund. They recommend a  gift of $10.

Working with friends

I met Paul Toffanello in Timmins about 10 years ago. Timmins is a bustling mining town in northeastern Ontario and I was there partly at his behest. He was director of education of the large regional Catholic school board and one of his literacy specialists had invited me to be the guest of honour at her annual young writers workshops. the cover of Popchuck's GhostI spent a day giving workshops to groups of teachers and novice authors, as well as an illustrated talk to all the attendees. It was all similar to the talks I give across Canada (and occasionally beyond), except for one detail. The education director sat in on nearly every session and then Continue reading

New Book, Old Friends

I met adventure photographer Pat Morrow a few months after starting my first job as an assistant editor at Ottawa’s Canadian Geographic (then known as the Canadian Geographical Journal) in the mid-1970s. The Kimberley, B.C. native had bought a Greyhound bus pass in order to roam around for a month to show eastern photo editors his portfolio.

That day, I bought two photo essays to liven up the magazine’s (then) dreary pages — hang gliding in the mountains and frozen waterfall climbing in the Rockies — and took him home to crash on my couch for a few days.

Five years later, Pat was preparing to climb Mount Everest and I was the executive editor of Equinox, Canada’s hot new magazine of discovery (headquartered Continue reading

EIGHT ways to do justice to a lifetime of photography

 Canadian photographer Pat Morrow has travelled the globe in pursuit of adventure over the past 40 years. Along the way, he:

  • became the 132nd person to summit Mount Everest,
  • set the standard for climbing the highest mountain on each continent (AKA The Seven Summits) and,
  • won more than a dozen national awards for his photos and videography.

Frank and Pat taking a break from photo editing. 2012.

Recently, Pat launched a new adventure by collaborating on a stunning iBook about Mount Everest with fellow mountaineer Sharon Wood and me. (I’ve been a friend of Pat’s since our earliest magazine days when I was at Canadian Geographic and he was a rookie freelance photographer.)

The result — Everest: High Expectations — is a beautiful iBook especially produced for Apple’s iPad. It’s loaded with 145 photographs as well as a half dozen video and audio clips. And also 50,000 words.

Here are 8 reasons why we embraced the concept of the new “coffee tablet” book.

  1. The iPad’s Hi-Def retina display gives photographs an almost Continue reading

Riding the iBook Wave

Well, Everest: High Expectations has been available on the world’s 50 iTunes stores for a few weeks now. It seems odd that I can sit here in my backwoods office — tethered to the rest of the world by a small internet satellite dish — and watch the iBooks’ first tentative steps onto the international scene without even going outside.

Everest is slowly attracting the attention of readers and the mountaineering publishing world. We’ve had a lot of enthusiastic reviews posted on the American and Canadian iTunes sites and received many more as emails. I’ve met some new people through the book (notably editor, writer and mountaineer John Harlin) and exchanged emails with folks in Turkey, New Zealand, England, Russia and Georgia. Our first full-length review comes from the mountain town of Whistler, B.C. — The Pique’s Lynn Martel shows that she understands Everest’s 3-dimensional nature. You can read it here.

Many are drawn to the Everest adventure story but some are just as excited about Continue reading

A Welcome Review

John Harlin IIII’m feeling a bit starstruck today after an incredibly complimentary note from John Harlin III. A member of the Harlin climbing dynasty, John is author of the Eiger Obsession: Facing the Mountain That Killed my Father, star of the Imax film, The Alps (about his own Eiger ascent) and recently retired editor of the American Alpine Journal.

Thank you John. These are generous words and I’m delighted that you share my vision of the future of illustrated books. I mean, coffee tablet books. (Rather than wait for a review copy, John bought the very first copy on iTunes two weeks ago.)

Everest: High Expectations, by Pat Morrow and Sharon Wood, is at the vanguard of the new wave in publishing. It’s an iPad-only book about two milestone Canadian expeditions to Everest in the 1980s. One journey takes Pat Morrow to the summit after four people died early in the expedition. The other is Sharon Wood’s struggle for the top via a new route with no Sherpa support… Both of these stories are historically important and superbly written.
… this is the first mountain book to fully utilize the incredible new iBooksAuthor system from Apple, which helps authors create multi-media “coffee tablet books.” I think it’s brilliant. It brings a book to life like never before, including slideshows, video, and sound clips. And yet the design follows the aesthetic tradition of a photo-heavy book that you’d proudly display on your coffee table. So it’s a “coffee tablet” book.
I’m convinced that growth in publishing will be in tablets and I recommend this book for two reasons:
1) these are gripping good tales that are gorgeous to look at, and
2) this book is making history, as perhaps the very first climbing book designed specifically for today’s most exciting medium.

The Business of Coffee Tablet Books

Books published by Frank

Some of my old paper books.

I decided two years ago to stop printing books and pursue the e-alternative.

With 50,000 unsold books collecting dust in a Toronto warehouse and the market for them shrinking weekly, it wasn’t a difficult decision.

In the 1990s, Bungalo Books used to sell between 100,000 and 200,000 books a year — goofy kids picture books that John Bianchi and I produced at a time when the term “self-publishing” was used with derision. By 2010, self-publishing was suddenly in vogue but annual sales of our once profitable backlist had slipped to less than 2,000. Printing books was a money-losing proposition and publishing had lost its pleasure.

My initial e-steps were tentative and the early projects — a series of interactive book apps for kids — failed for a variety of reasons. I didn’t have the technical skills to create “book apps” myself, nor the money to outright hire the people who did. A couple of joint ventures failed in mid-production and I refused to sell rights to my books to app developers Continue reading

It’s a Book

While out in Victoria in 2010 to do a presentation for the local Children’s Literature Roundtable, one of the group’s executive introduced the audience to Lane Smith’s “It’s a Book,” recently released by Macmillan. Two characters, a tech-head donkey and book-loving gorilla, face off as to the merits of a book.

Visually it is a cute book, best read aloud. The audience loved it although there was some tut-tutting when the donkey is called a jackass. (Hey, it was Victoria.) It certainly captures the e-book vs. old-book debate with charm and humour.

Shortly after, I stumbled across the publisher’s one-minute video of the book on youtube and came to the conclusion that “It’s a Book” is even more effective as a video. In fact, it undermines Smith’s thesis Continue reading