In preparation for coming to ALA, I’ve been working on the music website that my wife and I are creating to go with our forthcoming book Sugar Changed the World. The idea of the site was to provide a place where readers could hear some of the life that came from death — the music and dance that grew out of sugar slavery. It is one thing to mention that on the page, or to illustrate it with period drawings, it is another to give people a way to actually experience and enjoy the art. The site will be up in a few weeks and I’ll provide a link here, but working on it has suggested other forms of beyond-the-book connections. First and most obviously, while we found an ethnomusicologist to help us select music that can be linked directly to sugar which we then had to get permission to share. But above and beyond that, there is is whole world of Youtube videos of sugar-related song, dance, drumming, history, etc. There is so much that our role is just to point people in the right direction and provide a basic map.
Once you begin thinking about how a website can go beyond the book, possibilities keep presenting themselves. We may create a video booktalk, for example, or a blog space for people to share their own family sugar histories, or cultural resource center where groups who perform sugar-related music and dance can let people know about their work. We all know that in books for K-12 art and text need to work together. But this experience with the website suggests to me a new form of creativity — print and website. We need to be thinking of the site as the connective, multimedia, interactive voice of the book, even as print and illustration is the artistic and personal statement of the author. We provide both avenues for the reader — the well-considered page, and the ever-expanding interactive opportunity. Not every book will need to have a site. Not every great site will improve a flat book. But I am savoring this moment of possibility as we explore what the the web can do in tandem with print.