Why I chose to publish for the eReading format before the traditional print format for my newest book.

I have blogged extensively as to how the iPad changed my perceptions about reading, technology, media consumption, educational opportunities and, well… all kinds of things. I’ve talked about how I was a
skeptic until I held the thing in my hands. And then I bought myself an iPad
within the first 2 weeks it was out and I haven’t looked back since.

As it turns out, the iPad changed my perceptions of being a professional writer as well. (An unexpected insight.) Doing something “different” with my newest book Cinder-Smella thus became
an appealing idea to me once I had written the text.

First, a little history about me as an author. I’ve now published in a variety of ways. I’ve self-published, I’ve published with the big dogs in the industry (Disney, Scholastic, RB Education, Penguin) and I’ve
blogged for two years now (a form of modern-day publishing for sure) at a
fairly voluminous rate.

In essence, after having written Cinder-Smella the opportunity arose for me to invert the traditional publishing paradigm… so I decided to go for it with this book.

I’ll explain.

For hundreds of years books have become manifest through being printed and bound. Nowadays, eBooks offer people the opportunity to not print or bind a physical book but rather publish it in a digital text format.

But in the world of picture books, I saw a clear imbalance between the quality of the final product and user experience. While reading a book like Freakonomics or Pride and Prejudice on a Kindle, Nook,
iPad (or what-not) is somewhat of an apples-to-apples user experience (yes,
they are different but the two reading experiences are somewhat in the same
ballpark) reading a picture book such as Green
Eggs and Ham
or Knuffle Bunny in
physical form versus Kindle, Nook, iPad, or so-on, is not an apples-to-apples
experience. Clearly, the printed picture book trumps the eBook experience (in
my opinion).

Of course, nowadays we are seeing an explosion of children’s book apps that allow kids to paint within the book, have the story be read to them via the character’s voice, and interact with the text in all sorts of
enhanced, digital ways. But (again, in my opinion) comparing apps to printed
books is not an apples-to-apples experience either.

(NOTE: I am not weighing in on “which is better”; I am just saying they are not comparable as the user interface differential is too great.)

But what if I crafted Cinder-Smella to be an apples-to-apples picture book experience much like Freakonomics is an apples-to-apples reading experience? This idea intrigued me a lot. 

That’s when I realized that what I was really talking about was writing the first children’s picture book specifically designed for the Kindle.

As it currently stands, e-ink screens are awesome… but they are not all in color and reading a picture book is often a lesser experience on eReading devices. But that’s only because I had not yet seen anyone construct a
picture book with the Kindle (and other eReaders) specifically in mind.

And so, with my publishers at eReadia (a new company formed in the past year that believes – and really gets – the digital reading revolution) we decided to try and break new ground.

Indeed, innovation excites me.

The question became, could we format Cinder-Smella so that grandparents and parents with Kindles and iPads and Nooks and so on could read a picture book with their little ones that didn’t feel like a second rate experience?

Clearly, all writers today are thinking about how eReading is going to impact the way our audiences have access to the works we create. So for me, publishing Cinder-Smella in a
digital format first – and then publishing it in a printed book format second –
struck me as an interesting way to dip my toes in the waters of a quickly
shifting landscape while still working hard to publish and author high quality material.

So yes, Cinder-Smella represents my (perhaps, the) first children’s picture book specifically designed to be a kick-butt reading experience on the Kindle. (Clearly, the iPad offers a reading experience that is downright wicked
– the color Nook, as well – but they are designed to be different machines than
the Kindle.)

So far, the reviews for Cinder-Smella have been great but clearly this project represents a new way of doing things in this new era of publishing. Printed books are coming, but the digital has
arrived first with this title.

And don’t think that I don’t realize that without a printed book, there is a “stigma” attached to the publication. More on the perceptions of printed books versus digital books tomorrow.

Dr. Seuss is my Homeboy!

Tuesday was Read Across America day, chosen as such because it’s the birthday of Dr. Seuss (who, btw, is probably one of the most influential authors to shape my own writing life).

Me, I read all of my classes GREEN EGGS AND HAM. Literally, I sat them all on the carpet (criss-cross apple sauce style) and these rambunctious, worldy, street smart teens immediately reverted into a crowd of 34 first graders eager for story time.

Never diminish the power of reading to your students. For the sake of modeling. For the sake of fluency. For the sake of fun. Wasn’t a kid in my room who didn’t just LOVE it.

Of course, it’s probably most fun for the teacher, though. Makes me jealous of all the elementary school teachers who get to read to their kids all the time.

Anyway, as a warm up, I wanted the teens in my room to think about their own early childhood experiences with books so I had them do a quick write on: Cite three memories you have about being read to when you were a young child (about the age of 4).

And of course, I got the hands shooting up… “But what if you don’t have any memories of being read to, Mr. Alan?”

Now whodda thunk that the kids with that question floating around in their heads were some of the kids with the lowest skills in my English class 10 years later? Must be a coincidence that these are my most “at-risk” students, right? I mean these kids are still trying to play catch up for the work that was never done before they even really entered “official” school. (I am thinking kindergarden as “official” because pre-school is not mandatory and thus, so, so, so many of the lower-economic students I teach never went to pre-k.)

And speaking of pre-K, my own daughter will, of course, enter kindergarden with two full years of pre-K in her belt (a private school, of course) — and at least 1-2 books a night having been read to her since the moment her dendrites started to form. (Okay, I am a weirdo and used to read to my daughter in the womb… laugh away but I drank the kool-aid on the value of reading long, long ago!)

So, for class homework on March 2? Go find a little kid that needs reading to. Cousin. sister or brother. Neighbor. They are plenty of little munchkins floating around Lynwood. It’s yet another way that I explain the importance of books and reading and literacy to my students over the course of the year. Hopefully, it will be a lesson they will value and pass on to the next generation when that time comes.

Perhaps they’ll even be womb readers!!

Happy Birthday Theodore Geisel (that was the real name of Dr. Seuss). Your work has shaped mine forever.

You are my Homeboy!