How We Made Our iBook

The Maggot Moon Multi-touch iBook was a complete labour of love for everyone involved – we learnt so much throughout the process of collating content and building this iBook, so we wanted to share it with you. Sara O’Connor and Sarah Benton take you through the process they went through to bring Maggot Moon from printed page to iPad…

This project was first and foremost based on Sally’s message. She has long been passionate about debunking the myths surrounding dyslexia and all the concepts for this project came from her.

We met with Sally three times before even starting building an idea of what this digital project could be, and as we progressed through the steps, kept meeting with her. Each time, we left more inspired than ever before.

My favourite meeting was when we were sitting out in our building’s lobby and Sally was talking about how some dyslexics have exceptional spacial awareness. Suddenly, she asked me, “Without turning around, tell me what’s behind you right now.” Luckily, I could remember that there was a door behind me, but it did make me think about how many spaces I move through without ever really seeing them.

With all the thoughts of extra content, and discussions with Sally about what she wanted to achieve, we then had the hard task of trying to decide exactly how and what, we put in the book.

We had real concerns about making sure the content fit in with the text, so the only thing to be done before we went any further was to sit down again, and go through the book with a fine toothcomb, highlighting anything that could be enhanced with extra content, or an interaction. For instance, being we’d talked to Sally a lot, we started to notice how many parts of her were in Standish, and where videos of her talking about her experiences would fit.

We started off with a very LONG list (think crazy spreadsheet) which was numbered and colour coded based on priority. We then sat down pretty regularly to cull things from the list, if they were too tenuous or unachievable. We didn’t want to put any content in for the sake of it. It had to fit.

Video content, we knew, would be important for the project. It would bring the page alive, and help us display a lot of content in an interactive way.

Some videos we made ourselves, with the help of screen capture software, and iMovie (like one that shows how Visual Theasurus works), some other people were kind enough to let us put in things they had made (thanks Bold Creative and Digital Disruption!), and some we had to commission ourselves.

Two of the most important ones were the animated page sequences – which give a peek into what reading is like for Sally and other dyslexics. We discussed the pages with Sally, and she described what movement she sees, how words bump into each other, fight for attention, and generally don’t stay still. We then briefed talented illustrator, and video animator Tom Percival to bring this to life. When we were happy we showed some dyslexic teenagers, just to make sure they were accurate and then made a few changes based on their feedback.

I don’t think any of us imagined how amazing the final videos would be, so thank you Tom for the hard work!

Getting permissions for things like the Churchill/Lindemann telegrams was quite a fun challenge. The lovely people at the Churchill Archives Centre were so helpful, but though they held the documents, I had to get permission from the copyright owners. One set of permissions came in the very day we were uploading the files… (That’s the best thing about working digitally and instantly. We could still squeeze it in at the extreme last moment!)

We also worked with people at M C Escher’s foundation to get permission for his Relativity painting. Sally had wanted us to find an example of some dyslexic’s skill at seeing things three-dimensionally. Especially in a mind-boggling image like Escher’s, many dyslexics can spot instantly what is “wrong” with the image, whereas I have to follow the staircase with my eye and realise that it is impossible.

Best of all, there were fabulous people like the Digital Disruption team, who were happy for us to use their amazing content, once they heard what we were trying to do with the project. Their videos about propaganda and techniques for brain washing fit so perfectly with the messages of this book, as well as being relevant and brilliant learning tools. We’re so grateful to them for letting us include it.

Once everything was decided, created, numbered, labelled and correctly formatted, we sent it off to the developer. And then we realised that not everything was quite in the right place or the right format. So, we sent various corrections. And then again, and then again. We got there in the end and are ever grateful to Justin and Hugh for not throttling us as we all worked to get everything in the right places.

(SARA’S BIG TIP: When designing a 200+ page book, with pieces of content tagged to certain bits of text… turn off hyphenation BEFORE you do your page layout. Otherwise, correcting it afterwards, things get very, very fiddly.)

And here’s how it all turned out:


5 responses to “How We Made Our iBook

  1. This is really interesting. Certainly helps others understand what it’s like to see as a dyslexic person. Especially like the graphic of the words ‘bumping, jumping’ off the page. Made me think that the brain is trying to see the words in 3D or as a 3D image as this seems to be an innate talent in dyslexia.

  2. A very interesting post. It goes to show just how much effort is involved in putting together a top quality ebook.

    I love the idea of all the extra content you’ve put in especially the word animation.

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