Monday, 28 May 2012

eBook Little Fish Hits 3,000 Downloads!

The success of Little Fish the eBook has been quite staggering. I first made this book with my son, John about a year ago in a printed version. John came home one day from playing to show me a tiny fish that he had caught from a river in the housing complex that we live in. He had so much to tell me about this fish and I encouraged him to take me to the river to show me where he caught it.

I took my iPhone to take photos and John rode his bike. I asked John to tell me the story as we went and I took photos to be later put into the book.

We downloaded the photos onto my Macbook and I put the story together using the program called Keynote. John was able to retell the story easily. We put a sentence for each photo keeping the story simple yet engaging.

Originally we wrote the story in Indonesian as John had only just turned 5 at the time and his English wasn't very fluent. Later I translated it into English. The result was then printed onto paper and I took it to a book binder to put a hard cover on it. John was able to share his book with his class but that's as far as it went.

I have been making books such as these for years here in Indonesia. Simple stories that can be printed up and hard bound for classroom use. It is very difficult to publish a book here in Indonesia. Most publishers will only print 3000 and so therefore will only choose books that have the potential to sell well.

'Little Fish' was well received by John's class and we kept a copy at home on our bookshelf. At that time there were no apps for creating books which allowed the user to have control over the layout. I have always used a simple layout style featuring large photos and simple text. I have preferred to use a landscape page orientation for picture books as I can make the picture really fill the page.

A few months ago I learned about an app on the iPad called Book Creator. I read that it can produce a file that is compliant with the requirements for the iBookstore. I started to use the app in different classes to produce books but I had not thought of publishing any of them. I decided that I needed a test product so I quickly revised 'Little Fish' making it in English only and adding voice recordings to make it more engaging.

I uploaded the book to iTunes Connect and set about getting it published. I have already written about that experience in a post here.

To date the book has been downloaded 3,000 times. I find myself thinking about why ...

It is simple and personal
It has full colour photos that show what happened
It has a voice recording which can help young children learning to read
It has been created by a child with help from his mother - not by a professional publishing house
What this means ...
It is amazing to think that people can now share their stories in this way. My son's book is regularly featured by Apple in the iBookstore alongside professional authors such as Beatrix Potter.  John gets feedback about his book from people on the other side of the world.  


The difference here is this book has gone through the same system that other authors experience - yet it was made by ordinary people.

Production - Editing - Selection (by Apple) - Marketing - Feedback

I know I keep saying this but this is the beginnings of the publishing revolution.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Writing for the iBookstore and for the World

It's been a few days since the news broke about my 9 year old student, Keily Setiawan the youngest student to self publish a book in English and Chinese to the Apple iTunes iBookstore. The reaction to the news has been quite amazing.

We held a press conference at my school last Friday, 11th May to announce Keily's book that she had published with my help and under her mother's authority.

To date the news has been posted in many, many different publications both online and print.

Online News - click on the links below
Antara News
The Jakarta Post
Jakarta Globe
Bisnis Indonesia
Pikiran Rakyat
Indonesia Headlines
Shang Bao Indonesia
Indonesia Proud

Printed Publications and photos from the press conference:

Created with flickr slideshow.

These articles have been generated about the story so far. I was most excited to see the news posted by Apple in their iTunes News section on their website.

We teach students to write in every school but their audience is usually limited to their teacher, their peers and their parents.

We are seeing the beginnings of a publishing revolution.

Kids can now write for a world wide audience. Now we are putting tools into the students hands that can empower them to share their knowledge, their experiences and their learning in a whole new way.

"I am witnessing my students completely re-think the way they present their learning. It's gone beyond just fulfilling the expectations of a teacher, to how they can present their work so it will engage an audience that they have never met. 

It's more than posting online to a blog. The tools that the students have access to when creating a book for the iPad change the whole way they think about presenting their work. It's beyond words and pictures - it becomes engaging and along with that students need to rethink everything."

Some examples:
 Keily (9 yrs) used a storytelling style to present her book by working hard on her voice recordings to give more life to her story. She wanted to show how well she can speak in Chinese in her book 'Chen Chen Goes to Space'.

"It's different when you know kids in America can access your book. I love to read the comments on the iBookstore about my book" - Keily.

John (6 yrs) wanted to tell his fishing story and show everyone how he is now able to read by adding voice recordings to his book 'Little Fish'.

"I want to show how I can read the words now" - John.

John's book has been downloaded over 2,400 times. It was number 2 in free children's books downloads in France last weekend.
Peter (15 yrs - amateur golfer with handicap of 4) wanted to teach his audience about golf by creating interactive images and instructional videos to enhance his 6 months of research on technology in Golf.

"When people saw my iBook - they thought that I had purchased it online. They couldn't believe that I had made it myself. I never thought that I would start my career at aged 15. I now know that I want to be a sports writer." - Peter.

This iBook is in the process of being published.

Nahyeon (17 yrs) reworked a book that she created over a year ago to be more appealing to a younger audience so she added voice narration to her storybook. She had been unable to publish her book as she thought the only way to publish was via printing, an option that was far too expensive for her to persue. After uploading her book to the Apple iTunes iBookstore, Apple approved it and published it after only 24 hours.

"I want to reach as many people as I can with my message about the environment through my artwork. It is my dream to become a book illustrator and now that has come true. I am already working hard on my next book" - Nahyeon.

Juan (10 yrs) wanted to teach others about simple machines by including fun quizzes using interactive pictures throughout his book. He wanted people to understand how to identify the simple machines inside everyday machines that are used in our lives by using labels that zoom in on an object in a photo when tapped. He also added 3D images to 'make my book more fun'!

"I want people to have fun when they are reading my iBook. I hope that I can teach them about simple machines and that they have fun learning about it." - Juan.

This iBook has been uploaded - waiting approval from Apple.



Can you see now what it is that I am witnessing?

This is just the beginning ...

Friday, 11 May 2012

My Dream for Education Has Come True

Today was an exciting day for me. My school hosted a press conference to celebrate the publishing of Keily's book 'Chen Chen Goes to Space' to the iBookstore. Keily Setiawan is only nine years old and is in Grade 4. I worked with Keily over several weeks in her Mandarin classes to create an iBook. When we first sent it to the iBookstore it was rejected as the iBookstore doesn't support Chinese script.

We were so disappointed but Keily suggested to make her book bilingual and add English. I had asked Apple Singapore if there were any books in the iBookstore that were in Chinese and found out that the ones that were there were bilingual.

So we revised the book.

Actually it made the book become better. We realize that Keily is probably the first child in the world to publish in English and Chinese. Download Keily's book here.

My school sent out an infobyte (newsletter) to the school community to announce Keily's achievement.

The next day I was approached by a Grade 11 student. Her name is Nahyeon Kim. Nahyeon is a very talented artist. She told me that she made a book last year for her personal project. This book was hand painted entirely by her. Nahyeon's dream is to become a graphic artist. I persuaded her to add voice recordings to each page to make the book more accessible for young children.

She agreed.

On Wednesday we uploaded the book to the iTunes iBookstore. Both students had to ask their parents to come to school to work with me to create iTunes Connect accounts as you need a credit card as a part of the verifying process. Keily is actually under age and Nahyeon doesn't have her own credit card.

Late last night I received the news that Nahyeon's book had been published. It was uploaded on Wednesday and published late Thursday night by Apple. That's the fastest I'd ever heard of getting a book published!!! Download her book, 'Threescoop's Snowy Adventure' here.

Previously Nahyeon had tried to publish her book. It was too expensive to pay for a print run. She had shared the process on her blog - but that is not the same as being officially published to the world in an online bookstore.

Today I presented these books by Keily and Nahyeon and 12 other exemplary books to the press. We had about 30 reporters come to school. Actually I have about 70 books that have been made by students. Today we wanted to show just a short range of books made by students from Kindergarten to Grade 11.

Tonight I sit and reflect upon this week of meeting the press and getting books ready for publishing. I remember it was about 4 years ago that I had an interview with The Jakarta Globe. Read the article here. I had met with the Globe having just presented at the 2008 Indonesian Teachers Congress in Jakarta. My presentation was about the power of digital storytelling. I presented entirely in Indonesian.

My dream back then was to publish digital stories and have them on a website. The point was to share stories. Sadly it didn't really take off. I have always had a passion for helping students to write and I have created many books over the years with my classes. These are great keepsakes but rarely go beyond the class and parents. In my previous school I actually published a book with my Grade 1 but we only printed 500 copies and that was very, very expensive.

In 2008 I became an Apple Distinguished Educator. This changed everything ...

Apple has supported me. The software, training and inspiration that I have been given to grow as an educator had changed the way I teach. It's all about the student voice. I realize now, that this was what I was trying to do back in 2008. I was trying to give students a platform, an opportunity to be heard and to have a greater audience to read their work that went beyond the teacher, the class, their parents and even their school community.

Today I realized that dream ...

My students are no longer writing for the teacher, for their parents or for their school community. Students are able to actually publish their work to the world. Keily now realizes that she has an audience on the other side of the globe. Her work is now alongside professional authors in a high profile online bookstore.

Keily is now an author!

Nahyeon's book that she painstakingly created over a year ago can be downloaded and viewed by people from 32 different countries.

Nahyeon is now an author and very talented book illustrator!

Yes I know that blogging can give you that international audience. But to have your book published in a forum alongside professional authors is something that is quite amazing.


Amazing for me to realize my dream as an educator. This is something that I will continue to build upon.

Thank you Apple 

Sunday, 6 May 2012

iBook 'Little Fish' Ranks Number 41 in US iBookstore

Recently my iBook that I made together with my son has received a lot of attention. The iBook 'Little Fish' was made together with my youngest child, John Tambunan. I made this book using the iPad app called Book Creator. I have been in regular contact with the app creator, Dan Amos via Twitter and he has featured my video about using this app in Chinese language classes as well as the publishing of 'Little Fish' to the iBookstore on his website
About a week ago, Dan asked me if he could write a press release about my son's book. I agreed on the provisor that he needed to mention that I helped my son to make this book as he is only 5 and not able to type very well yet. The story was picked up by Cult of Mac in the UK. They wrote a great review here.
Yesterday I logged into my iTunes Connect account to take a look at the download stats for 'Little Fish'. To my amazement I discovered that the book had been downloaded 1,136 times! I tweeted this to Dan and he said that I should check to see if this book had made it into the Free Books for Children's Literature Lists in the iBookstore. Actually I got the Tweet via my iPhone whilst sitting in Jakarta traffic. Dan kindly did a check for me (Dan is in the UK) and he found out that my book was number 38 in the US iBookstore. I was so excited!!! Later I was able to check for myself. By that time my book had dropped to number 41 so I took a screen capture to save the moment.