Bank Street Buzz
Every March the Bank Street College of Education gives out its awards for best books for young readers, and publishes its longer list of selections tinyurl.com/yc8bcyu When I first started out in publishing, that breakfast and ceremony was one of the quiet ones that did not get a lot of sizzle, but old timers always said was worth attending — a kind of low key gathering place of friends, colleagues, and influential educators. I used to live quite near Bank St., so I would often attend, even if I had no direct connection with the awards. I went yesterday, and caught a cross section of this moment in publishing. I met an art director I used to work with, who is now experimenting with creating "aps" (applications) — not books, not ebooks, but little digital experiments that you will be able to download to your iphone or ipad. One of the Bank St. directors admitted that she is about to get an ereader — if only, so she claimed, to see how bad it is. After the ceremony, I walked downtown and shared a falafel with the artist Chris Raschka tinyurl.com/ybnzk4u and as we sat there imagining what we’d like to do in digital kids books, someone eating his own pita platter joined in the conversation — he wants to design ESL materials in a gaming environment, and seemed to be trawling to see if we wanted to join in with him.
So where are we — artists, art directors, designers experimenting with aps but feeling discouraged by ebooks. As of this morning Barnes & Noble made the head of its website, the head of the company, tinyurl.com/ya3nary Everyone is scrambling, but where, why, for what is really not clear. And, more directly, in terms of this column — what does this mean for libraries, for schools, for authors, artists, and publishers?
My sense is that it is a Wild West time of experiment — it is a time to try, to get an idea, see what it costs, see how the world responds. It is a time for librarians to imagine, to dream, to envision what they would like — and then see if that could be made possible. The good news is that no one knows. The bad news is that no one knows. What could ebooks mean to you — to your collection, your school, your kidds? What do they offer? What do they threaten? What is the mix you’d like to see.