My New Course on Children’s Book Writing. 

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A friend at a prominent college here has asked me to consider teaching an external course for adults on writing children’s stories. After all, most of us have come up with original stories for children. Parents dream up original tall tales for their kids. And many of us remember at least some of the stories our parents made up when we were kids. So I had the following thought while working on the syllabus: wouldn’t it be great if the participants in the course could create their own stories on Ourboox? In addition to sharing the age-old sage advice on how to write a good story, I will explain how they can create their own artwork, hire artists in Israel and abroad, and bring their story to life on Ourboox. Who knows? I may even offer them the ability to create a small run of print books as well. During the course I will emphasize that very few of us will ever be as good as leading professional storytellers and writers. But hey, that doesn’t mean that we can’t create great stories to share with our family and friends. And the more that we write, the better we get. On Ourboox you can always go back and improve your text, even after you have published it. I do it all the time.

Oscar’s Trick

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Professor Oscar Har-El’s book on the Ourboox platform is seen by many dozens of people each month looking for information on the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. How does he do it? The truth is that we do not know. Many of our books are on the top page of search engines, especially when you look for images. But few are as prominent as the book of Prof. Har-El. If you don’t believe me search “bilbao guggenheim museum” and tell me what you find on the home page. Oh, and here is the link to his lovely and informative book: The http://www.ourboox.com/books/the-bilbao-guggenheim-museum/

My Secret Sauce for Writing Children’s Stories

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Over the past three years, I have written oodles of children’s stories, such as “Why I Love Yogurt”, “The Football and the Tree”, “Nick’s New Job” and many more. Up until recently, I haven’t explained the technique I used. It’s time to own up. What I do these days is use a recent modification of the 48create technique which I developed a decade ago with Dr. Alon Amit. The original technique was designed to enhance creativity and problem ideation for hi-tech students and entrepreneurs. The amended technique helps you dream up wacky stories of your own. I won’t spill the beans here, though. You have to visit my free e-book, where I tell all.

Birthright

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Birthright Israel (Taglit) is a program in which hundreds of thousands of young Jewish students come visit Israel, many for the very first time. I was surprised to learn that each group from abroad is accompanied by a smaller group of soldiers and students who volunteer to join the foreign groups, adding the local ingredient of Israelis their age who can share their lives, and enjoy the new friendship and experiences of their time together. Recently I have been asked to give two presentations on innovation in general and Ourboox in particular to two groups from overseas visiting Taglit. Each time, I prepared an e-book on our platform, with pictures of the participants and some text on my life, and innovation.
Last night I was invited to address the Israeli counterparts. Some 100 bright eyed young people, in the Israeli Exchange Building near bustling Rothschild avenue. I talked about my own life, how I came to Israel as a young person their age, and loved it so much that my first year here never really ended.  Of course I prepared a book as well.
In addition to talking a bit about my own story, about innovation in general (I shared my ideas on how to have a 100% successful startup), and our startup in particular, I made new friends and wonderful contacts. What a delightful way to start the weekend. So thank you Shay and Orel, to Oran for hosting me, to both Liors (male and female), and looking forward to the next time we get together!

Exciting News !

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Hello to our community of over 17,000 authors and illustrators, and hundreds of thousands of readers!!
The next time you open a book on the Ourboox platform, you’ll notice something new on the very first page – information about the author of the book you’re reading, with a link to further information. We gather the information directly from the profile of the author. So if you’re a published author of one or more of our 7828 books, you’ll want to update your personal profile. Click on the arrow at the very top right of the screen, and choose ‘edit profile’. You’ll be able to add tons of information about yourself which will help promote you and the books you publish. This is a good opportunity to thank CTO and co-founder Ran Shternin who is always keen to improve the experience of our authors and readers. 
If you haven’t yet published on the world’s simplest platform for creating and sharing picture e-books, now is a good time. As always, I am standing by to answer any questions that you have.
E-mail me at mel@ourboox.com

Another busy week for Ourboox‏

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It’s been yet another hectic week for Ourboox. Although many of our young writers and teachers are off from school, we continue to get new books, new members and new interest. On Tuesday, I drove down to Ashkelon to present a talk on ‘the future of books and reverse literacy’ to about 70 wonderful English teachers. This was a great opportunity to hear so many compliments for what we are doing, as well as awesome new ideas for competitions and further Ourboox related activities and projects. During the meeting in Ashkelon, I met the intrepid Dr. Andy Curtis. I say ‘intrepid’ because he spontaneously agreed to deliver my Pecha Kucha talk off the cuff, with no prior idea of what it was all about. He gave a marvellous presentation.
I should add that we waited all day for the cocktail hosted by the British Council. There was a cocktail, but no alcohol. And I thought teachers know how to party…
On Wednesday, I headed my car in the opposite direction and drove north to Shlomi, where I taught two groups of eager teachers (about 25 in each group!) how to use the ourboox platform and to help their students become self-published authors in no time! The food in Shlomi is good old-fashioned, no nonsense food. They even had Shalva, which I hadn’t tasted in decades! Another good reason for making the trip.
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Life is Short, Share your unpublished dreams‏

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At Ourboox we make books come true. We do it for free. We share your passion with the world. We let everyone admire your penmanship and enjoy your artwork. So if you have poems or stories that you’ve written, pictures that you’ve drawn or photographed, children’s stories that you have invented for your children, now is the time to dust them off and add them to our growing library. A pictorial memory book of a recent trip? How about an article about the history of your family? An interview with your grandfather? A few recipes you’d like to share. Ourboox is looking for stories.

Yours.

Mel

How did Ourboox come about ?

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How does an idea evolve?
From many different threads of ideas, I suppose. About a dozen years ago, I attended a series of seminars called “Mahut Hahaim” (the essence of life). This project was run by Shari Arison, daughter of Ted Arison, the owner of Bank Hapoalim who is a very spiritual person. Every week, people from different walks of life (I was the only scientist) would meet at her offices, where we would hear lectures, practice yoga, and discuss doing something for the betterment of society. I think that is where I first had the idea of sharing free books over the internet.
My first idea was to share my own books for free. I hired the amazing illustrator Rotem Omri, and she spent almost two years illustrating nine or ten of my books. Using flash technology we built a website, meltells.com, in which all my stories appeared (the site still works) as page-flipping illustrated e-books with audio. Since everything was free, I expected many visitors, but received only a few. This I ascribed to two reasons. First, if you search the term  ‘free books’ you find many companies with big bucks offering you books that you can buy. Secondly, it was just me with my small website offering nine free books and one video. So I purchased the domain ourboox.com
In 2009 (I think) I attended the Bologna children’s book fair and discovered that there were as many frustrated children’s book illustrators as there were writers. I had the idea of a website where anyone could upload a story, and illustrators from around the world could come and illustrate. This was the beginning of the Ourboox concept.
Initially, nothing happened. I talked about the concept at an event sponsored by Dr. Yossi Vardi. People loved the idea. Cyberguru Dr. Nimrod Kozlovski promised to help out. Still nothing happened. 
But then I gave a talk (on barking) at the TEDx event run by Roi Shternin, who told me that he had a brother who was a genius web developed. He was right. I met Ran Shternin soon after and pitched my dream: a website where anyone could create a page-flipping book by adding text and whoosh… it becomes a page, and then add a picture and whoosh, it becomes another page. 
Ran said he thought it was possible. And he was true to his word. 
With the help of many friends including internet guru Jeff Pulver, the idea morphed and pivoted, and now children and adults from around the world are using the free platform to create books with not only text and illustrations, but also videos, maps and much more. And now that we have 7,500 books and are growing day by day, people are coming to visit Ourboox from far and wide. They are creating and reading books in over twenty languages, on 73 different subjects.
True to the original idea from Shari Arison’s seminars, Ourboox is free to use, free to share and we remain true to this vision. Authors can remove their books at will (they don’t but they could). We may even offer a revenue stream for authors, without taking any share of their income. 

Great news for Ourboox users

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Happy New Year to our 7100+ writers and illustrators! Just a quick update of where we stand as 2015 draws to a close. Our growth is exponential, with over 4400 books. Over a third of our page views (over 90,000 in December alone) come from organic search. This is just one indication that our unique approach is paying off in terms of searchability.

Now to the great news. Ran Shternin, co-founder and CTO has just uploaded a new version with several important features:

– The books now fill almost the entire screen of laptops and look awesome on tablets and smartphones as well. They are highly responsive and if the text overruns the page, there is a scroll down bar.
– Clutter on the book reader screen has been minimized – info on the books has been folded away on the left, and comments on the right.
– We are promoting the books that are selected by our editors in the new “Featured Books” category. Featured books will be decorated with a star. Of course, all our books will still appear in the general library. Authors are welcome to e-mail us to request inclusion in this new, exclusive category.

Other improvements and updates are just around the corner.

So thank you so much for your support and for sharing your content with us and the world. Shuli and I will continue to support the website, so there is no chance of it going anywhere but up. And we will continue to offer the platform as a free service to writers, illustrators, teachers and students throughout the world.

Help us succeed. Publish your content! Share your content! Tell writers and illustrators about us. With your help we will reach our goal of another 10,000 books in 2016. Happy New Year, ourboox community!

Things you find in your inbox

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We just discovered this letter that we wrote two years ago, December 2013, of our dream of what Ourboox might be:

Educators talk about the need for literacy in terms of our ability to read and comprehend. However there is another kind of literacy, the written and artistic ability to capture and share our own thoughts, dreams, stories, treatises and essays.  For hundreds of years, publishers have imposed barriers and restrictions making it difficult for writers and illustrators to publish their works.  Even now, in the era of the internet, it is difficult and expensive to publish ebooks in their current formats.

We have recently launched a project (ourboox.com) which will enable anyone with the ability to write or draw to publish books online for free.  The text of a story, thesis or book is simply dragged and dropped into the platform and illustrations (drawings, photographs, graphs, charts) are then dragged and dropped in their appropriate places. Authors can team up with illustrators to publish books together. The result is a page-flipping ebook with its own url that can be shared freely across the web. Books can be content- and copy-edited and otherwise improved at any stage.

We envision that Ourboox will enable university students to publish and share their theses and reports, high school students to upload and publish their projects, and for grade school classes to collaborate around the world to make books together. And who knows, we professors may even use it as well!!