You are about to hear from one of the most popular creators of children’s literature in America, not to mention his legions of fans in Europe. My Featured Guest today, Hans Wilhelm, has taken the plunge into the world of electronic publishing, apps and e-books and androids and all. What he has to tell us is fascinating. If you have had questions about this field, you are about to get an education! It’s all yours, Hans.
Q: Hans, you have a number of children’s books as apps and e-books available on the Internet. Tell us about your experience, beginning with what is an app?
A: An app is a software program developed specifically for the Apple products, like iPhone, iPad, and iPod. Children’s books apps don’t just show the pages of the book. These apps have advanced technological features such as word highlighting, sound, animation, and lots of other clever features to keep young readers enthralled for hours on end. But there are also other similar programs, like Androids that are designed for non-apple products.
Q: And e-books?
A: Yes, e-books work on virtually all platforms. But e-books usually just show the illustration with the text. They don’t have sound or animation. Several years ago I put many of my out-of-print books on the Internet as e-books for free. With all the school budget cuts it was my way of helping and thanking teachers for having shared my books in their classrooms for so many years. Now they can show these books via Smartboard or computer totally free to their classes. Actually, anybody can read these books for free. The website is http://www.ChildrensBooksForever.com.
Q: So why did you also enter the apps market?
A: iPones or iPads are such cool tools. I saw how mesmerized these young kids are by such gadgets and I wanted to reach them with my stories. You give a two-year old your iPhone and you’ll never get it back! What better and direct way is there than bringing the book right into their little hands via a computer? I also wanted to make my stories more fun, like giving them sound, animation and other features.
Q: How did you go about it?
A: Well, it was quite a task since I understand very little about computers. But I embraced this new challenge wholeheartedly because I knew it was a great opportunity to learn something new.
I decided to start first in Europe where my animated TV character WALDO is very popular. After an extensive search I found MCB (Mobil Children’s Books) a dynamic apps publisher with whom I published my first 9 apps in Germany.
Q: What was the working process to create these apps with them?
A: The first thing I did was to buy and download countless children’s book apps to see what is on the market and what is technically possible. I then decided which of my books would work best on this new platform. Since these books had already been published before, I had all the images on my computer or on CDs. Now I needed to decide how to crop these images, where to place the text, length of text, and lots of other things to make each page visually work on the computer, iPad or iPhone. And then I forwarded these images per Internet to my German app publisher.
Q: You said that your apps have also other features.
A: That’s true. One of these features is sound. The readers can either read the books themselves or the story can be read to them. I took a very daring approach and decided to read all my stories myself. I guess my apps here in America are the only children’s book apps with a German accent. I thought it would make the stories more special and fun
Recording my voice onto the computer was another fascinating learning experience. I had to get myself a very good microphone and learn to record my speech on the “Garage Band” program. It took several takes before each book was perfectly recorded. Again, the sound recordings were transmitted to the apps publisher via the Internet.
Q: You said you now have also apps here in America. How did you find the US app publisher?
A: This was not a difficult choice for me because I wanted to be with a very innovative company that has been in this field for some time. I decided to partner with “MeeGenius!” which has been the consistent leader on Apples top rated list for children’s books apps. I also had some earlier working ties with the company and knew the founders. It took them several months to build the apps for the first 6 books that I launched with them. (See press release: http://www.hanswilhelm.com/hans2pages/meegenius.html)
Q: Do you think all author and illustrators should make their books into apps and androids?
A: Not necessarily, because most big traditional publishers are now working hard on turning their existing books into apps, androids and e-books. I know that Scholastic will release my NOODLES book series also electronically. Random House will do the same with the books I have with them. So chances are that many of the books which the authors or illustrators presently have in print will also be made available electronically by the publishers for them.
I only did it myself because I think it is a wonderful way to keep my out-of-print books alive and it is an exciting challenge to specially write and illustrate for the computer market. It is a different medium to paper and has lots of possibilities with new features added every day. We are only at the beginning stage of this new world on e-publishing.
Q: What was your biggest challenge converting your books into apps?
A: Time. To prepare these apps and record the sound is very time consuming and when at the same time you have dead lines to fulfill for your other books there is a lot of pressure. But I am glad I am now part of this market and I look forward to creating many more apps in the future.
To learn more about Hans and his work, visit him on his website at www.hanswilhelm.com.
Hans, as always it has been my pleasure.David