Monday, 20 October 2014

The Dream Deliverer

I would like to introduce my guest blogger this week and it is A J Cosmo!

Settling the Great eBook Vs. Print Debate
by A.J. Cosmo
They're going to revolutionize the world. Libraries will go extinct. Bookstores will be no more. A new age of reading, powered by the consumer and brilliant innovation, is at hand. This is the dawning of a new literary world order!
Or something like that.
When Amazon recently sent out emails to authors enrolled in the KDP select program to ask for help in their Hatchet publishing dispute, they compared the invention of the printing press to the creation of the eReader, saying that both machines liberated information and threatened subversive monopolies. It was a dramatic statement to say the least and showed how the mighty Internet retailer viewed its Kindle product line.
At a recent SCBWI conference in Los Angeles, the president of Penguin Books repeatedly emphasized that eBooks were simply another distribution channel. He sighted the explosive sales of young adult novels as proof. Anonymous posters on Reddit writing and reading forums have repeatedly declared that Kindles are nothing more than brown paper bag covers allowing older women to read books that would be considered too immature for their reading level.
I'm here to say that almost everyone has it wrong.
Kindles, and their eReader brothers, are not a revolution on the scale of the printing press. They are not the killing blows of traditional publishing. They are not masks for embarrassed readers nor are they simply a new distribution channel for repurposed content. 
They are their own format. Period.
EReaders are to books as cellphones are to landline phones. Both were originally created with the same intention, a digital solution to an analog problem. However, just as the smart phone has evolved to do so much more than simply make a voice call, so too will eReaders soon offer experiences and opportunities for storytelling that simply cannot be done in print. To continue with the analogy, I believe that we're currently in the clamshell era of eReaders: simple, functional, and with a great potential for more. We've yet to see an eReader as revolutionary to reading as the iPhone was to telephones. Yet, I don’t think that moment is far off.
In fact we may already have that advanced eReader in our hands, it's just that the content that exploits the medium has yet to be created. So far authors and content creators have been stuck simply translating the Word document to HTML and making sure it looks like a digital version of the printed word. Createspace, Smashwords, Lulu, Amazon, have all been culpable in providing straightforward tools that translate the same content to multiple mediums with little to no variance. Simply cutting and pasting content though neglects the huge amount of tools available on eReaders to enhance the content.
Epub3, the newest format for eBooks, contains support for advanced CSS, transparencies, imbedded video, imbedded sound, activated sound, and even some limited interactivity. Authors can now animate text, say making it rain letters when describing a hurricane, on any page that they wish. They can make a knocking sound when a reader touches a door or music play when the spooky chapter starts. Certain Kindle titles already offer an Audible read along integration, but this can be further enhanced with music and sound effects.
Adobe Digital Press, a new Creative Cloud offering that interfaces with Adobe InDesign, is capable of directly porting interactive layouts to both ePub3 and Mobi formats. In my own limited testing, we've been able to create page turns that are both vertical and horizontal. We've imbedded background sounds for environments that trigger when the page turns. We've put in play buttons so readers can hear what the monster they're looking at sounds like. We've added animations that trigger on page turns and also on touch. So far it's like working with a whole new medium; like something between a book and a film.
That's just the surface, too! Books can now be interactive in a narrative sense. Imagine a choose your own adventure book on steroids. One where the choices don’t actually just end in a forced restart but that organically changes what you are reading as you read. I experimented with this in "The Dream Deliverer," a book where children were given the choice of right and wrong and got to see what would happen as the choices got increasingly risky.
"The Dream Deliverer" could not have been done easily in print. The final book totaled over four hundred pages, way too expensive for an indie print run, and cumbersome to do in a choose your own adventure style. There were twenty-six unique endings along with six hidden illustrations (prizes for finding the different endings.) The book kept track of the reader's decisions and changed the story, and the choices, accordingly. 
And it was all done with simple HTML.
Think of what we could do with a more advanced programming language. We could create stories where the reader inputs characters, situations, objects, and the story incorporates them. Not simply Mad Libs either, but writing that could react to the reader. What if we wrote two versions of the same story, one where the lead character is male and the other is female and then the reader chooses the sex of the main character at the beginning? How fascinating would that be? Or what if we used objects to symbolize story components and allowed readers to generate stories by simply arranging those objects?
When you consider the creative possibilities of eBooks the whole argument over print versus digital seems rather moot. It's as if we debated the superiority of film to television, theatre to reading, or video games to music. They are all different mediums with their own sets of considerations, strengths, and weaknesses. The great fallacy is thinking that eBooks and print books are enemies in the first place. Print has it's advantages over eReaders as well; offering a tactile experience, a strong sense of progress, and a sense of possession that eBooks can never duplicate. 
So rather than focusing on a debate between mediums, I would admonish you to craft the story that you want to tell in the medium that most suits its telling; and do so in the manner that best utilizes your chosen medium. Use the tools you have at your disposal and create something that the world has never seen before. 
Happy storytelling.
A.J. Cosmo
Dream Deliverer link:

A.J.Cosmo amazon author page
A.J. Cosmo's website:
Twitter: @ajcosmokids

Monday, 13 October 2014

Books, real books, are magic portals made of paper and memories.

Books, real books, are magic portals made of paper and memories. 

How wonderful to hear the news that book sales have surged leaving kindle books in the dark. Paper is well and truly alive and more popular than the e version. Books-sales-surge-as-readers-prove-that-paper-isnt-dead.

All hail paper, the book reading technology resurgent. Eight years after the first Amazon Kindle and five years since the first Apple iPad, lowly pressed wood pulp is on the rebound.
Were you surprised? I wasn't. We tend to skim read on an e-reader or kindle on pc and are far more likely to be distracted by incoming emails and notifications from social sites and games online.
 Plus you just can never beat having a real book in your hand, the smell, and the turning of the pages. Just the sheer pleasure of the shape and texture of a book. The mere sight is a pleasure to tantilise the brain.

There is simply nothing better than a good book.  A real book, and by a real book I am talking about the ones made from paper and trees.
 As I flicked through the faded pages of a well read and now worn hardback book earlier today I found myself reading autographs and inscriptions, and admiring cover art, which brought back memories, not only when I last read it, but the very first time I read it.
This book was given to me as a child and whenever I open it and started reading from it, memories flood straight back to the time when I first read this book.
Remembering how my Grandad had handed it to me as a gift, and then I also remember the tune he would whistle, so now I have that tune in my mind too!
 That memory may not have been opened if I had not opened that book just now. There’s something...
just something I can’t explain, about the way a book feels to hold and read that no digital version can match. Something magic that is made from paper and memories.

You use more than your 5 senses when you pick a book up, you use your mind. The memories it evokes and still contains between its pages whenever you care to open it.
Yesterday I felt like I was holding a story, an entire world ready for me to explore- I’ve never felt that way on my e-reader. I’m talking about the weight of the hundreds of pages, bound up in your hands. I’m talking about the soft breeze of flipping through the pages, front to back, then back to front. How it fits perfectly into your hand. It must be because it is made of paper and memories.
The smell of the book. Oh wow the smell of a bookshop, is there anything  more glorious?
 A lot of people have books as decorations, sitting on a bookshelf to make the person look all literary and stuff. I have all sorts of books on my bookcase, new and old. They do not need to be in any order or a certain order, and I do not hide the tatty or older ones away so it looks neater to the eye. When I read the same book digitally or from a book, I feel completely different, and can only fall asleep properly with the paper version. Could it be the colour of the paper? the smooth feel on the fingers of each page, the size of the text, the cover, and the way I like to flick the pages all of this affects how you feel when reading a book. Sliding finger right-to-left doesn’t capture how it feels to turn the page of the book made from paper.

But I also love reading digitally because it means I can read anywhere, digitally is convenient for time and for the pocket. It can never take away a book though, so in this instant it is a totally different experience. They are both totally different things. So for this reason you can have both.

Life moves fast and just because everyone seems to be gravitating towards a life of electronic screens and wireless connections doesn’t mean you have to leave everything behind. Keep a hold of the book, and keep a hold of the memories. Relish in the 'simple and beautiful'. The Kindle may be the future, but you can't write your name in it, and you can't add it to a bookshelf and enjoy the view and the simple pleasure of watching the next person enjoy your bookcase and smell its age between the pages. Whether new or old.
You can’t fall asleep with it on your face, drifting off into a dream from the imagery it instills.
You can’t pass it down to your kids, gifting them with the most moving words of your own young adulthood.

  In a world where you can just forget everything that's going on around you; where you are swept up into a whole other universe expressing the other character's feelings, memories, the pain or anger, confusion, sadness, happiness and also forget everything. Books are our escape. Everything is forgotten about until the book is put down.

What magic a book contains, and what magic we can retain for always from the pages of a paper book.

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the-dream-deliver by AJ Cosmo

Monday, 6 October 2014

Autumn the colour of fall.

 We have Seasons 
My favourite seasons are always the ones that fit between the main ones. So that will be Spring and Autumn as the ones in which the changeover between Winter and Summer are viewed more favourably to me. Spring offers the promise of newness, and the beginning of growth. A fresh start, and of course rain. Autumn is brought to you through a natural shifting of colours, patterns and shapes.

Autumn can make us feel nostalgic about the past.The thoughts of Autumn rush through you like the bygone years did, all so swiftly with hints of warm memories, maybe the odd nippy blast, but we can forget about that if we look to the joys that Autumn brings. We get out the warm gloves, hot cocoa, a decent book. Memories of Mum or Dad on the back step, or porch, watching the sunset, or later in October carving pumpkins with the family, and sharing all the colours that it brings.
These aren’t ‘the bleak days before Winter, they’re ‘the best days of Autumn’.
These are not the ‘Saying goodbye to Summer, these are welcoming the newness that is Autumn’.

And if Autumn starts on 1 September this year, it delivered a blinder – warm temperatures and daily sunshine made us think summer hadn’t quite ended. But somehow September got rebranded into ‘the last days of summer’ and soon you will notice a harsh drop in temperature becoming ‘the sudden onset of Autumn’. I think Autumn needs to have a full countdown to it, as it is so beautiful and inspirational.

I don’t know why, but late Autumn seems to have become synonymous with rain, cold and misery. For me, those fresh air walks, along with the kicking leaves, then sitting outside a cafe in the sunshine – these are autumnal pursuits that I love. I can sit in the sunshine without feeling uncomfortably hot and having to go in the shade every ten minutes. Bliss. These aren’t ‘the last days of summer’, they’re ‘the best days of Autumn’.

Often our positioning of summer as ‘the perfect’ season is based on complete myth. For many people my age, it’s based on that one Summer in 1976 when the season did what we expected it to do.  Boiling hot temperatures, wall-to-wall sunshine – it was the driest, sunniest, warmest Summer of the 20th century. (I can hardly remember it, but it is well documented).
Because that Summer has become wedged so firmly in our childhood memories, we are addicted to its golden rays, and long summer nights. Maybe some Summer loving. Going by years not long past, Summers in Britain have been a little disappointing, we never know when they are starting or finishing. They came in late and left without as much as a goodbye. Then when we were getting the winter coats out, the sun came back out for two days in a row, and that is a Summer for some of us.
It rains in Summer, often for long periods. Then we get a week, or two if we’re lucky, of warmth and sunshine. Then back to rain again. Just because it rains for one full day does not mean ‘the Summer’s over!’ You get rain in Summer, sunshine in the middle of Winter, balmy days in Autumn, freezing days in Spring. It’s unexpected and that’s the joy of it.

But then when Autumn arrives with an air of change, a transition stage occurs. If you walk through an orchard on the last days of September or in October, it smells of nothing but mixture, fruitiness and rottenness, mustiness and deliciousness, a long-cooked smell-soup, something not here for long.
You will see the acorns are dropping one every minute or so. I have never known a year in which the footpaths are so crusty with them.
The leaves are still on the lime trees and the poplars are desiccated and brittle, more oven-dried biscuit than growing organism, as if someone had decorated the trees with a thousand pieces of melba toast.

The martins and the swallows have gone. The geese have yet to arrive from the north. It is a time of quiet and absence, the place is now wrapped in the first October days, we can still wave goodbye to The Autumn of  September, but we are in the transition stage of the last rays of an indian Summer and the crisp fall of the harsher October Autumn.
Autumn is well and truly upon us.

I got used to the sun being the exception and not the rule and learned to enjoy it when it did decide to make an appearance.  Our coastline is nothing short of paradise at that moment. It was the first of October and the sun was so warm, and the sky so blue, so we went to the coast and took in the air and the fresh breeze. So invigorating. A sunny day but with sprinkles of Autumn in the air. Then you may have noticed the beautiful sunsets and the sunrise. If you are up by 7am you will see throughout the first two weeks of October some amazing skylines with peachy reds and pinks, golden glows of sunrises.

If you are continually wishing Summer back, then you are going to be disappointed. Embrace Autumn. Get out and enjoy whatever the temperature brings. If it is cooler, get out those Autumnal wraps or woolies with the fingerless gloves (I think these can only be worn in Autumn as it is to cold to wear them in Winter).
And as well as all of that, see the changing of the colours and see the newness in the oldness that is Autumn.
Try and look at a few of these photos and illustrations then come back and say you don't like Autumn. Kid Literature Autumn pinned

Get out there now and enjoy lovely Autumn.

You’re welcome.