Bert and Ernie (trust me, this will make sense in a minute)
No one would ever confuse me for being a tech-savvy snob. The highlight of my formative computer using years, came in fourth-grade when Mr. So-and-So - I forget his real name - the dreaded, older, only male teacher in my school - brought computers into our classroom in Irvine, California, where my family was living at the time. He told us those big white boxes with yellow, block letters and black screens would be the wave of the future. Mr. So-and-So had to beg the school to purchase computers for our classroom. We were the very first class to use them! No other teacher in the school wanted such silly things. We were lucky, said Mr. So-and-So. We were getting a leg up on the rest of our grade. Those other kids who got the new, nice, sweet, pretty teacher, Mrs. Kennedy, were going to be sorry Sally's that they didn't get computer time! We'd show them! They'd be stuck pumping gas while we were living the life in Palm Springs, all because we got to use computers. That's what he said to a group of scraggly fourth-graders rolling their eyes.
Well, turns out Mr. So-and-So, for all of his evil ways, was right. And the best I've ever been, and probably will ever be, at computers, was in that class when I ardently typed the letters falling from the top of the screen to the bottom of the screen, faster than they traveled. The golden years of computers for me - it's never been as good since.
Now, flash-forward to 2010, there are so many applications and reading thingamabobs like iPoodles, Kinkles and Nookies, that I can't keep up! But I think I got it! I think I finally got it when I read a recent article called MeeGenius!: A New Outlet for Picture Book Authors and Illustrators written by Alice Pope (who keeps a well known children's book writers blog here) in the May/June 2010 SCBWI Bulletin.
The MeeGenius! tag line is - Have you ever thought about having your books published on the iPad, iPhone and the web? Why wait to sell your books through a traditional publisher? Go digital today with MeeGenius! and become one of our noteworthy authors, distributing your books immediately to an international audience.
That said, the MeeGenius! people won't take just any joe-schmo writer or illustrator. According to Pope's article, they "plan to employ a MeeGenius! editor to monitor the quality of submissions." They don't want to be a YouTube for picture books. And the co-founder, David Park, says, "We think of ourselves as more of an Etsy type of company. We want to have really high-quality content on the site." Oooh, I love Etsy - this equals good stuff people.
Right now, if you go to the MeeGenius! site, you can view and read a couple dozen picture books for free. Mostly the classics like Jack and Jill, Cinderella, Goldilocks and The Three Bears, and The Boy Who Cried Wolf. And what's super cool, is that you can personalize each book so that Goldilocks becomes Samantha, and the baby bear becomes Sadie. Yes, I personalized GL and her three bear friends. I had to try it out! It was actually really fun and easy. And you know that if I get it then a four year-old definitely will. What's more? There's a read-along voice and each word is highlighted as it's spoken - a couple of the key items that parents told MeeGenius! creators they wanted.
The E-books are sold through the iTunes store and the web, and according to Pope's SCBWI article, MeeGenius! is still working out the kinks in terms of their author/illustrator payouts and pricing models for the E-books, but ultimately it will be left up to the audience to see what the people are willing to pay.
One more thing, MeeGenius! is enabling a "dating service" they say, to connect illustrators with authors. Who knows, they could produce the next Sonny and Cher, Bert and Ernie, Han and Chewbacca, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Ross and Rachel - I could go on - of children's book creators.
I hate to say he was right, but if he's still alive and somewhere out there tormenting a fresh batch of kids, Mr. So-and-So's probably awfully proud of himself for guessing that computers were gonna be a big thing.
Sonny and Cher
Han Solo and Chewbacca