'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Wednesday 13 April 2011

Interview: Ink Robin

Kids Book Review is delighted to welcome Jo Rivard from Ink Robin - a new children's ebook production company based in Toronto. We have just reviewed the team's latest book - Will & Kate - see the review here!

Tell us about Ink Robin. We’re two Toronto-based couples: Tim & Norma Penner and Matt & Jo Rivard. We’ve been friends for a long time and we’re used to embarking on adventures together, including travelling around the world with Habitat for Humanity. This is our first creative project together, though.

Matt and I started Ink Robin in order to publish a series of short stories I’d written, and when we came up with the idea for Will & Kate, we asked Tim and Norma to join us.

Our collective backgrounds are in design, illustration, animation and writing, and we all dabble in photography, so this book was the perfect opportunity to work together. We’re also firm believers that collaborating yields much more exciting rewards than working alone, and we’ve definitely found that to be true.

Matt & Jo
How long have you been in operation?
Just a matter of months.

What do you produce?We make kids’ books for the iPad.

How long did it take you to put together Will & Kate?
The whole thing took us 7 weeks, from initial discussion (over Sunday brunch, I believe) to the launch.

Who actually wrote it and illustrated it?
I wrote the story and it was illustrated by the wonderful Adam Larkum (a British illustrator). But the magic of it – I think – lies in the combination of the different elements – the design and the interactivity as well as the words and illustrations, so we prefer to take credit for it collectively; it was a true collaboration.

 How did you go about producing an ebook?
We’re still learning how this works. We had a very clear idea of what the book should look like and what the experience of reading it should be. We knew it should be really fun to read and interact with, and we felt that there wasn’t much out there that lived up to our expectations of a really good book for the iPad. We found an illustrator – Adam – whose sense of humour seemed to match ours, and a developer who understood the interactive elements we wanted. Then we just worked like mad to get it all finished on time.

Was it difficult to get your ebook on iTunes?
No, it was fairly straightforward, thankfully. I think it helped that there isn’t much else like it out there.

Was it a daunting process?
The biggest challenge was getting everything finished to such a tight schedule. There were a few too many late nights and the odd tense moment. We’re all obsessed with detail but in the end I think that’s what makes something like this a success.

There are a lot of substandard ebooks on the market. What is the biggest mistake people make in producing one?
I’m not an expert but I think a limitation of imagination is the problem. There are lots of books for the iPad out there that look almost like carbon copies of traditional books. It’s a shame to limit yourself that way when the iPad has the capacity to make reading a very different, more interactive experience.

 What can people do to do it better?
Indulge their imaginations, I think. It probably helps that we all have a fairly silly sense of humour. We were also inspired by other lovely books out there, such as Oliver Jeffers’ The Heart and the Bottle [ed: see KBR's review on this book here].

What part of the ebook process was the most joy?
Two things – working on a joint project with your best friends and realising how entertaining sheep sound effects can be.

Are ebooks the way of the future?
I think they’re clearly a huge part of it. I’m personally a very big fan of traditional books and I don’t think ebooks will replace them (or need to). They’re simply a new hybrid that brings reading to life, especially for kids, and I think that’s something to be excited about.

How has Wills & Kate been received?
Incredibly positively so far. Everyone seems to like the sheep. We’re still waiting to hear what Prince William and Kate think of it though.

Will you be watching The Wedding?
Nothing could stop me! I’ll be getting up at 5am on April 29th, since we’re 5 hours behind the UK. That means I’ll be having cucumber sandwiches for breakfast.

What’s next for Ink Robin?
We have lots of ideas that we’re already excited about and several more books planned for the iPad. I imagine many of them will involve ridiculous animal sound effects.

Make sure you check out our Wills & Kate review, with links on how you can buy this stunning ebook.