When my children were tots, bedtime reading was always a fun time. I can remember the soft pj’s and the fresh smell of baby shampoo after their baths as we scoured the bookshelf at home to pick a favorite story. It always seemed to be a character book for my two, where I could do the voices of the characters, only to be corrected, usually by my son, if I got the voice wrong. The fun would begin after being corrected, as I tried to get just the right voice of the character, which more often than not led to me singing a bedtime song to them in character. Rarely did anyone go to bed early, but who cared––it was sweet fun.
That was over twenty years ago, and times have changed in children’s book publishing. Children’s e-books now dominate the e-reader market; revenues were up to $27.7 million in May 2012 from $7 million in 2011, according to the Association of American Publishers. Although many households can afford the convenience of e-reader technology, many still love the touch and feel of a real printed book. Printed storybooks are a form of communication that doesn’t just use pictures and words. The entire experience of paper, color, texture, weight, and the look of a frayed edge give the storybook a shelf life of its own. Being able to share these treasures among generations is an integral part of the appeal of the Little Free Library.
Little Free Library is the brainchild of Minnesota natives Todd Bol and Richard Brooks, who came up with the concept of “take a book, leave a book” libraries in memory of Todd’s mother, an avid book reader. Looking like large birdhouses and planted on the lawns of homeowners and shopkeepers, each library can hold about two dozen books. This nonprofit group aims to support a sense of community and reading for children, creating a “habitat for the humanities” by spreading the love of reading the old-fashioned way, by holding a book.
Neighborhood groups and individuals can volunteer to act as stewards over each little free library and can turn over its collection several times a month. Community members are encouraged to leave one of their own books in exchange––there is no fear of theft because you can’t “steal” a free book. After the library is registered and has its official, numbered Little Free Library sign, it has the privilege of being given its own GPS coordinates. There are currently over 200 libraries in 28 states and 13 countries on the Little Free Library map of the world. This is truly becoming a global cause.
I checked out the kids’ room last night and looked at all the books I have seen through the years and realized I should encourage my tiny town of Glen Spey in upstate NY to place one of these libraries in our local park. I too have always wanted to write and illustrate children’s books, but where do I start? Well, I do have an art degree and have done illustrations, I have a couple of good stories in me, and I am currently in the printing industry and have the technical knowledge to get this made––it’s the perfect trifecta.
I do have some questions about publishing my book, though, so I consulted Google. I first landed on a site called The Purple Crayon––this is a treasure trove of knowledge for first-time publishers, and its curator is a children’s book editor and the author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Children’s Books. This seems to be just the guide to get me started as I continue on my path towards fulfillment and fame. The next question is: How much will it cost to publish my masterpiece? There are a number of printing companies that cater to the private author. Although much of the publishing industry has been upended by the e-reader market, I want my masterpiece to be old-fashioned ink on paper as well as hardcover, to fit with the others in the den.
I found two sites to help me publish, Book1One and Lulu––both have easy-to-use interfaces that help you get pricing. I was surprised by how simple these sites were to use and by the amount of information they had for me. The sticker shock was less than I expected, considering the personalized nature of publishing my own first book. Now I have all the tools to realize my dream.
One final thought: My goal of publishing a hardcover book can only achieved by the use of technology (and each website had a link to its Facebook page and Twitter feed). Seems the only way to have an “old-fashioned” reading experience is to embrace what new media can offer.
Want to learn more about the Little Free Library program? You can visit its website at:
Want to view the NBC story on the Little Free Library? Visit:
Purple Crayon: www.underdown.org
Author: Tom Caska
Image Credit: Michael R. Perry http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaelrperry/6917300746/