Sunday, July 22, 2012

Reply to Diane’s blog on the future of Caribbean children’s books.

Diane Browne
In response to Diane's Blog I really hope some way can be found to reprint and sell some of Diane’s books, and to celebrate her contribution to Caribbean children’s literature. How about approaching the Calabash Festival, which every year reprints a book which has gone out of print?

An alternative for authors is to get grant funding or to find a sponsor. Annick Press, which published Olive Senior’s picture book Birthday Suit, acknowledges the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council and the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund for their publishing activities. (Even so, booksellers in Jamaica are reluctant to sell it, as, when it reaches Jamaica, the price is way above the average price for similar books.) I don’t know if there’s an Arts Council in Jamaica, but there are several foundations, such as NCB, Scotiabank, Jamaica National and Digicel to which authors should be able to apply for funding. Perhaps the Commonwealth Foundation also gives grants to writers.

Joanne Gail Johnson recommended to the authors of the Island Fiction Series that we find private sector sponsors as she did for her children’s books. The model she followed was to ask the sponsors to buy 500 copies of her book, after which she has a book tour, reading to groups of thirty children at a time and donating the books to them. This goes along with giving samples of the company’s product to the children and a print advertising campaign. That suggestion has so far been too daunting for me.

When I consulted Diane about the feasibility of doing a print run for Delroy and the Marog Princess, she laid it out for me pretty much as she has done in her blog. The initial outlay itself is prohibitive, after which you have to find storage space for your books. If you sell through a distributer, either the selling price is above what the market will stand or you lose money or at best break even. If you decide to sell it yourself, it means putting gas in your car to drive around to potential purchasers. Based on these considerations, I decided to go the e-book route. As yet I can’t say how successful that will be.

You don’t have to have a specific e-reader to download a book. Any computer will do. Kindle has an app you can download to your computer to download kindle books, including picture books. In fact a computer would probably be better for picture books, as pictures on the regular kindle are on the gray scale. We don’t know how many children in Jamaica have access to a PC, a lap-top or a tablet, but I think we should look at the historical perspective. In the 1960’s it was said there would never be such a thing as a PC. In the 1990’s, any cell phone was a status symbol, and they were huge by comparison with today’s. I don’t think the time when children in Jamaica have their own e-readers is that far away. India is trying to manufacture an e-reader to sell for US $50.00, which when compared with what parents have to spend on school books every year is not excessive. We should at least prepare for the eventuality that the future of Caribbean children’s books may lie in the digital realm.


Natalie said...

Creative thinking is what's needed more than ever. The codex is only one way of presenting material to children.

I think that a lot of the material from Diane's books, especially because they are so text-heavy, can be re-purposed to make them more available to Jamaican children, while also allowing her to make some money and without going into debt. They can be made into activity books, shorter readers, interactive websites with printables, etc. Indeed, just take a leaf out of Eric Carle's strategy re: The Very Hungry Caterpillar. That small book has been transformed into a literacy machine! You could use it to teach so, so much. In fact, anyone who's writing for children nowadays needs to think about how the book can be used beyond the traditional interaction i.e. one book to one reader who is turning of the page. In fact, I happened onto this post because I'm working on a couple activity sheets for your reading at the Summer Arts Workshop tomorrow!

Anonymous said...

Very thought provoking, Helen, and I do mean that. There's a lot to think about, additional information, and perhaps solutions. When we all put our heads together we might surprise ourselves by what we decide we can do.

Anonymous said...

Natalie's comment is also interesting. I do have books which could be addressed in a variety of ways. Thanks, Natalie.