Saanich parents Shannon Hunt

A digital window into the Olympic Games

A Saanich couple creates an iPad London Olympics e-book for kids

The question reads: What year was female wrestling introduced to the Olympic Games? I scratch my head and poke “1984” on the iPad touchscreen.

I’m met with the red X of being wrong. Thankfully, an eight-year-old is nearby to offer the correct answer – 2004.

It’s a book written for youngsters, but apparently adults have plenty to learn from a guide to the 2012 London Olympics. It was created by a Saanich husband and wife team who have crossed the threshold from magazine publishing to a digital-only book designed for the Apple iPad.

The interactive, colourful and photo-rich London 2012 Olympics: The Kids’ Only Guide allows kids (and adults) to explore Summer Olympic and Paralympic sports, the London venues, trivia and history of the Games, using a medium that is becoming more popular and widespread each day.

“With the Olympics coming, it seemed like a good fit. We had a good experience writing non-fiction for kids and it seemed like a fun project to do,” said David Garrison, who created the guide with his wife, Shannon Hunt. “Apple released software to develop e-books. We had a chance to try it and see what came out of it.”

“Since we weren’t going to London 2012, (the book) was a way for us to get excited about getting involved,” Hunt added. “It combined our interests and abilities, and we found ourselves at the same time without a job.”

Garrison designed the pages and hunted down photographs, while Hunt researched and wrote the e-book over the past few months, which is now sold through the Apple Store through iTunes. The project offered a welcome distraction from the sudden and bitter end to two magazines they had created.

Until January this year, the duo had published kids’ science magazines Yes Mag and Know Mag, which had a combined 25,000 circulation, mostly in Canada. Yes Mag launched in 1996 and Know in 2006, and in 2009 Garrison and Hunt sold their Saanich-based publishing company to a Montreal firm, Mad Science Group. Both stayed on as employees.

“The idea was to help us grow and expand. That didn’t happen,” Garrison said. “They decided to close the magazines. It came as a complete surprise.”

The pair saw shifting to an e-book as an opportunity to learn a new publishing technology, while gauging the market for youth non-fiction e-books.

“Magazines are limited by their pages. This medium allows quizzes, interactive maps of the whole Olympic park,” Hunt said. “The topic lends itself to (the iPad). It’s fluid, there’s lots of movement which the Olympics is all about.”

“It’s hard to get the kids off (the iPad). It’s a good medium for non-fiction,” Garrison agreed. “This book is a bit of an experiment. We have no sense of the market, but e-readers are popular. This feels like there’s a lot of potential.”

Their kids, 11-year-old Casey and eight-year-old Remy, were behind-the-scenes players as both a focus group and picture illustrators. Both appear in the book, most notably Casey with champion triathlete Simon Whitfield – “fingers crossed for Simon,” Hunt noted. “We’re big Simon fans.”

“Our kids helped in the initial stages on how we approached the book. We asked them what would you like to see?,” Hunt said. “They liked pin trading, they wanted to know about specific athletic venues and how to plan such a huge event.”

The kids also liked obscure trivia and facts like the London Olympics will feed 60,000 people per day in the largest catering operation in the world.

“The most time consuming aspect was finding photographs and contacting photographers,” Garrison said. “Some said ‘no,’ but most photographers permitted us to use their photos, many for free. A lot thought it was a great project and were happy to let us use them.”

Garrison and Hunt think kids will use the book to learn more about the Games while watching the Olympics at home, and possibly their parents too.

“It depends on the reading ability of the child,” Hunt said. “Hopefully parents sit and read it with their kids. I know as a parent I learned a lot by reading to my children.”

For more on the book, search for London 2012 Olympics: The Kids’ Only Guide in the Apple Store through iTunes, or see www.twokidsandapup.com.

editor@saanichnews.com

 

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