Ebook Seeks Readers for Touchscreen Fun

For the past few forevers, I’ve been working on an ebook called Yells For Ourselves, a multi-volume alternate history of the 1999-2000 Mets. For more info on exactly what that “alternate history” means, you can glean more details at this here link. The reason it’s taken so long is because I’m trying to make a spiffy, enhanced thing that’s somewhere between a book and an app, something that aims to be both a work of research and fun to interact with. It’s taken a lot of trial and error–mostly error–to figure what I could and could not do, what was feasible, and in what format it was most ideally presented.

My initial plan was to take a regular ebook, crack it open, and add spiffy enhancements to it–primarily, audio and video. That plan fell through when said A/V enhancements proved prohibitively costly to license, and I was forced to rethink exactly what I wanted to do with this thing.

So I started from scratch and created a more design-oriented book using Apple’s iBooks Author tool. I had the iPad primarily in mind for my original plan–it remains one of the few devices that can handle enhanced ebooks–so this was a natural step to take. Apart from allowing me to include all kinds of animations and other goodies, iBooks Author enabled me to create an ebook that actually looks good from a design standpoint, whereas design is not even a remote concern for most ebook interfaces. There are issues with this program, as there are with any Apple product (it definitely reflects their “it’s our way or the highway” approach), but it also necessitated the least amount of compromise between my ideal vision of this work and what was feasible. I do plan to produce a no-frills version of Yells For Ourselves for other devices, but I found the possibilities of producing an iPad-centric enhanced ebook too intriguing to pass up.

Now, I finally have a sample that I’m ready to show to the world. When I say “sample,” I mean that I have an introduction and one chapter that demonstrate what the complete book will look like and be able to do. I’m still not 100 percent decided if I will use Kickstarter initiative to fund this. The biggest costs involved with making this dream a reality are incorporation (so I can sell it), ISBN purchase (so I can sell it at all ebook retailers), and image licensing, which is the really big one. For the moment, most of the artwork in Yells For Ourselves is just that: artwork of my own creation. But I would like to include some for-real iconic imagery from these seasons, and that, friends, runs into money.

If I do Kickstart Yells For Ourselves, I need a tangible slice of it to show the world and say “This is what your money will help make.” If I don’t Kickstart it, I still need to entice potential purchasers. Whichever route I take, I still have to make sure that this thing works and reassure myself that people might actually want it–and will be accepted on the Apple Store. Since I can’t learn these things on my own, I’ve made this sample available for your perusal and beta-testing enjoyment. I am interested in any and all feedback, but I am primarily looking for notes on the interactivity in the ebook.

If you’d like to check out this sample for yourself, it is available via Gumroad at the button below. Before downloading, however, please keep two things in mind:

  1. This book is designed for the iPad, so if you don’t have an iPad, it ain’t gonna work for ya. It’s an iBook file, so there’s a slim chance it’ll work on an iPhone, but I can’t vouch for that and wouldn’t recommend it anyway.
  2. The Gumroad button below brings you to a separate web page where you can download the sample. It will ask you to “name a fair price.” This is FREE. Enter 0 and you’re good to go. Don’t send any money, I beg of you!

Yells For Ourselves: Sample

Again, any and all feedback is welcomed, and you can send that feedback to yellsforourselves at gmail dot com. If you do not have an iPad, that is your right as an American. But if you’d still like to see check out the book’s content, you have a couple of options. First off, over at the book’s blog, you can read its full introduction, which serves as a sort of manifesto/statement of purpose for the larger work. You can also check out an excerpt from the book that at The Classical. The excerpt is a condensed version of a pivotal chapter in the book, the same chapter that’s contained in the sample.

If you’re more the visual type, I’ve provided some screenshots from the ebook after the jump.

First, a page featuring the Roger Angell quote that gave the book its title.

Here’s a shot from one of the book’s animations. This is an infographic about how these Mets teams were assembled. In the ebook itself, you touch the pluses and minuses on the screen to show popups about how each individual player was acquired or let go.

This page closes out the Introduction.

One problem about writing this book was that in doing the research for it, I kept finding little tidbits that were interesting but would be speed bumps in the narrative. To get around this, I created popup widgets containing these asides. Here’s one of them.

The ebook also contains popup boxscore/play-by-play widgets for each every game covered during the chapter’s timeframe. Here’s a screenshot from one of them. In the ebook, you touch the arrows to scroll through pages of the boxscore/PBP info, or from one game to the previous/next one. All stats and PBP comes from Baseball-Reference.com, who were awesome enough to allow me to use their data (particularly WPA and other advanced metrics).

At the end of each chapter, there will be “baseball cards” that popup and can be flipped from front to back to show the player’s stats both during the timeframe of the chapter and year-to-date. Here’s the front of one featuring my favorite all-time Met.

More to come!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=13005216 Gideon David Bautista

    Whoa–I’m the first to comment here, and also a tad late. But this project looks awesome. At first, I was very disappointed that this project is intended to be only available on the I-pad, and then I figured, hey, it’d be GREAT to have as visually detailed a history as you’re dreaming of.

    And then the print version would sort of be the equivalent of a paperback.