Astronomy A to Z: an alphabet book for iPad project video thumbnail
Replay with sound
Play with
sound
$934 pledged of $5,000 goal
backers
By Charles Seife
$934 pledged of $5,000 goal
backers

About this project

I am a veteran science journalist and author who is hoping to raise $5,000 to help pay for a graphic designer and for production of an astronomy ABC book for the iPad.

But this isn't your usual ABC book.

In the children's book publishing world, all the words and concepts in an alphabet book -- which is aimed at children who can't read yet -- have to be easy, even simplistic. I disagree.

Small children are smarter than we think. We can expose them to grownup concepts, if we explain them carefully. Even an alphabet book can introduce some profound ideas, so long as a parent is able to help the child explore.

Astronomy A to Z is a book that does just that. It uses simple language, coupled with beautiful pictures, to get little children excited about astronomy. Even though the structure of the language and grammar of the prose is simple, some of the vocabulary is meant to be challenging -- and a few of the ideas presented are profound enough to challenge an adult (such as dark matter and gravitational lensing.) It's for kids, but it's not watered down.

In short, this is a book for really curious children with smart parents.

Each concept is presented in three ways -- with three different levels of complexity. This approach, inspired by Bob Barner's books (such as Dem Bones), allows the parent to read the book in different ways to children of different ages.

As an example, here's the draft copy for the N entry:

N is for Nebula, a cloud of gas in space

Some nebulae glow. Some are dark. Some nebulae are where stars are born. Some nebulae reveal where stars have died. No two are exactly the same.

The Eagle Nebula is a kind of cloud, called a H II region, in which the gas is heated by the birth of stars. Other kinds of nebulae, called planetary nebulae, are clouds of hot gas streaming away from a dying star. When our sun finally dies, our solar system will become a planetary nebula.

Level 1, which even a very young preliterate child can understand completely, introduces the concept of a nebula in a simple and direct manner. Level 2 elaborates on the idea, and, at the same time, reveals that stars have a life cycle. Level 3 goes fairly deep into specifics, and reinforces the idea that our sun is also a star which itself was born and will die. (This is a scary concept for some children, of course, but the whole point of the segmentation into levels is to make it easy to skip parts that a child isn't ready for.)

Each entry will be segmented in this way (with the level 3 items in the back of the book with the photo credits), allowing kids to go deeper and deeper into the ideas as they grow older. I'm hoping that a book like this will be able to keep the interest of children from their very early pre-literate years to well past the time they've learned to read on their own. The images alone are worth staring at for hours and hours....

The $5000 will go into graphic design and production of an iPad version. If I raise more money than that, I hope to port the book to different electronic formats.  If the interest is really strong, I might be able to produce a high-quality printed form as well.

Because this Kickstarter will largely fund the production of the work, I will be able set the price of the electronic book extremely low. (I'm thinking $2.99 or thereabouts.) It will also be DRM free. Hopefully, this will give lots of parents the opportunity to expose their children to some pretty mindblowing astronomical images and ideas!

Risks and challenges

I've published six books, so I know the publishing process well. The text is already drafted, and the photos are already selected -- and I've already ensured that I will have the rights to publish them. So the risks are very low; there *will* be an electronic book to come out of it.

The only challenge is ensuring that the quality of the book is as high as I want it to be. So long as there are no unexpected snags, particularly with the process of putting the product in fixed-layout ePub and/or iBook format, I think that it will be a really lovely book.

Worst case scenario: we can't find a graphic designer at our price point and Apple refuses to allow me access to their store. In this case, I'll do the graphic design myself and produce an interactive-PDF version of the book, which I'll send out to all backers. It wouldn't be as nice or as reader-friendly as what I'm hoping to produce here, but it would still be a fun, interesting product for your children.

Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

Questions about this project? Check out the FAQ

Support this project

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $10 or more About $10

    A copy of the completed iBook plus a signed thank-you postcard.

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    12 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  2. Select this reward

    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    A copy of the completed iBook plus a signed paperback copy of one of the following books (your choice): Zero (or) Alpha and Omega (or) Decoding the Universe (or) Sun in a Bottle (or) Proofiness.

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Only United States
    2 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  3. Select this reward

    Pledge $50 or more About $50

    A signed hardback copy of my upcoming book, Virtual Unreality (first edition, if available). Plus a copy of the completed iBook.

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Only United States
    1 backer
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  4. Select this reward

    Pledge $50 or more About $50

    Have your child ask me a question about astronomy, cosmology, astrophysics, or physics, and I will attempt to answer. (Please provide the age of the child so I can craft a response that's appropriate to the child's level.) Plus a copy of the completed iBook.

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Limited 0 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  5. Select this reward

    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    A bound, limited-edition, printed copy of the book that I will commission if the Kickstarter is successful and there are backers interested in this option. Plus a copy of the completed iBook.

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Only United States
    2 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  6. Select this reward

    Pledge $150 or more About $150

    Signed copies of all my books: five paperback (Zero, A&O, Decoding the Universe, Sun in a Bottle, and Proofiness) and one hardback: Virtual Unreality. Plus a copy of the completed iBook.

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Only United States
    0 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  7. Select this reward

    Pledge $250 or more About $250

    A copy of a chapter from the first draft of Zero that didn't make it into the final version (discussing, among other things, Godel's incompleteness theorem and Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen pairs). Recipient must agree not to reproduce or disseminate copies of the draft. In addition, backers at this level will receive signed copies of all my books: five paperback (Zero, A&O, Decoding the Universe, Sun in a Bottle, and Proofiness) and one hardback: Virtual Unreality, as well as a copy of the completed iBook.

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Only United States
    2 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  8. Select this reward

    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    Drinks/coffee with the author in Manhattan at a mutually-agreed-upon date and time, lasting at least 1 hour.

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Limited 0 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.

Funding period

- (30 days)