Author Spotlight

A Digital Revelation

On October 8, I spoke at the Austin SCBWI Digital Symposium about the journey I traveled transforming my picture book Snuggle Mountain (Clarion, 2003) into an iPad and iPhone app (PicPocket Books, 2011).

Though many people had told me that I was on the cutting edge technologically, I didn’t feel that way. I was a writer not a geek. Yet here I was poised to talk about turning a picture book into an app. What did I have to tell people beyond the nuts and bolts of the journey itself?

I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was a bit of a numbskull when it came to all things digital from the hardware to the software to the myriad of social networking platforms. Oh sure I knew how to do certain things but I seriously thought my smart phone might at some point say to me, “You know you are really using about 1% of my brain. You might want to downgrade to a less smart model.”

Then I had my digital revelation.

On the day of the Symposium, during a break between speakers, a friend said, “Oh now I understand what those little ‘like’ buttons are on people’s professional pages on Facebook.” I remember thinking, “She didn’t know that?” I was surprised because she is married to a software developer and I assumed she was way more geeky than me. Then she asked me, “How do you get RSS feeds delivered to your mailbox?” I opened up my laptop and, in 90 seconds, showed her how it was done.

I remember thinking, “Wow, maybe we’re all walking around feeling just a little bit out of our depth in this digital tsunami.”

When I stepped in front of the audience to give my presentation, I knew that everyone in that room was on a tremendous learning curve. And we were on it together. Yes, some of us, like teens and 20-somethings, may be a bit more at ease with the technology but the digital world of books, apps and smart phones is new and changing every day. All of us are barraged weekly with app updates and probably have some anxiety that our brains aren’t updating as fast as the technology.

Look at what has happened in the last four years:

  • 2007: the first iPhone and eReader debuted.
  • 2008 iPhone 2 came out as did the first Android phone. Apple opened their app store and offered 500 apps that first year.
  • 2009: iTunes has 65,000 apps and 1.5 billion downloads; app becomes a household word.
  • 2010: the first iPad debuts as does the Samsung tablet. Amazon announces that eReader sales top hard cover sales
  • July 2011: iTunes has 425,000 apps.
  • In the third quarter of 2011, there was 279% increase in the number of unique apps compared to the previous quarter.
  • In September 2011, Apple announced that people are downloading I billion apps per month.

Four years. No wonder many of us are feeling a bit at sea. But here’s the good news and I think this is very good news. We are all collaborators and explorers together. We are not only figuring out how to navigate this new world of digital books and smart phones and social media and its possibilities, we are sharing what we know. At this very blog two weeks ago, Kiera Parrot talked about her success with circulating iPads at her library and, more importantly, how she does it and what she’s learned.

Personally, I love this “in this together” attitude. I love that we are not know-it-alls and that we can share our information to make this digital world make sense for all of us not just the most geeky of us. I am finding this spirit particularly helpful as I market my app. Librarians, teachers, even book buyers are willing to look at what’s possible when you have a book app and you want to figure out how to reach children and adults. Why? Because they’re figuring it out too.

Revelatory, eh?

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Our guest blogger today is author  Lindsey Lane.  Her picture book Snuggle Mountain (Clarion, 2003) is now available as iPhone and iPad app. Lindsey lives in Austin, Texas with her teenage daughter, their barnyard of animals and the most wonderful children’s literature community in the world. You can find her at www.lindseylane.net and www.lindseylane.net/blog.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at alscblog@gmail.com.

One comment

  1. Jeanette Larson

    Very insightful. Those of us who work with kids see much of the same uncertainty in their dealings with technology. Most are braver about just jumping in but we are all learning how to do the simple and complex things. It’s great to see good books being translated into electronic formats. We are going to go in that direction and hopefully the good will overwhelm the not so good. Thanks for sharing your experience with us.

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