The following is great story about how Caspar Armster and his wife created an interactive digital picture dictionary to help refugees and volunteers to overcome language barriers in Germany.
Caspar, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you did start working on interactive book content?
We started our publishing company Tilda Marleen Verlag for digital children’s literature in 2011. We explore all possibilities of the medium eBook by publishing great stories and illustrations with different interactive and enhanced features. These techniques can bring stories and illustrations to life, but also can be used as a tool to support reading promotion and literacy. We are also training illustrators and publishers in digital publishing.
The Willkommens-ABC project is having a great success and getting a lot of attention from the media in Germany. Can you please tell us how it started, how it came together, what is “special" about the project?
The Willkommens-ABC is a free picture dictionary for refugees and volunteers. It contains about 150 pictures of everyday things like spoon, traffic light and Teddy Bear with German and English captions. The idea came about when my wife, Anna Karina Birkenstock, worked as a volunteer with children in a refugee camp in our town. For her as an illustrator it was easy to quickly draw pictures to communicate with children. But her colleagues had to use commercial picture dictionaries. “There should be a free picture dictionary!”, she concluded, “And there should be a digital version of it, as many volunteers also used smartphones.” Therefore Anna Karina called up arsEdition in Munich, a publishing company she works for as an illustrator, and asked for support. The publisher was very enthusiastic about the idea, assembled another 25 illustrators, and arranged the Willkommens-ABC in a PDF format. But the publisher did not have the knowledge to produce the App and the eBook. Therefore I offered to produce the digital version. My wife and I designed a layout optimised for smartphones as these would be probably the most used devices. We also designed self-explanatory navigation and included audio. A befriended audio production company recorded the 150 words in German and English with a professional speaker. Everyone involved on this project worked for free. The PDF, the eBook (EPUB3) and the app (Android) can be downloaded on the project’s webpage www.willkommensabc.de
Why did you use PubCoder, and how long did it take to create it once assets were ready?
With PubCoder I was able to create the eBook and the App in one step. The software is mostly self-explanatory and easy to use. One of the great features is the possibility to create different layouts for different devices, so it was easy to design a layout for an epub3 for iBooks for Apple and a different layout for the android app. The preparation and assembling was much longer than the actual design and creation. After all, we had over 150 audio files and pictures. Once everything was ready it then took me only about three days to create the App and the eBook. That’s not possible without the help from a tool like PubCoder and we really had to work hard to meet the deadline (the Frankfurt Book Fair).
Are you planning to release more books to keep helping refugees?
EBooks offer great possibilities to support reading abilities as well as language skills. As Tilda Marleen Verlag we are working on a series of books which support both, for example with a language choice or the possibility to change the level of text complexity based on the literacy competence of the reader. These eBooks will help refugees as well as immigrants and children with learning disabilities.