A MULTIMEDIA EXPERIENCE
Fasten Your Seat Belt For
'One in a Thousand'
By MIKE PASINI
The Imaging Resource Digital Photography Newsletter
Review Date: June 2012
The news that Oracle's Larry Ellison was buying an island in Hawaii brought a grin to our face. He must have outgrown his 10-acre Japanese rock garden. We do know one other guy who bought an island. Ian Coristine. A long-time subscriber to The Newsletter, he emailed us about it recently:
"Several years ago when I was in the aircraft business (distributing Challenger ultralight aircraft across Canada), I went on a random flight with a couple of friends that changed my life. I happened to trip across a relatively unknown place (the Thousand Islands) that wrapped around my soul. The short version is that I fell in love, found an island (the only one that could safely protect my floatplane from storms), and began a new life," he wrote.
After publishing five books of aerial photos of the Thousand Islands in the Saint Lawrence River near Lake Ontario, Ian realized that Sept. 11, 2001 changed things for guys in small aircraft with cameras.
So "I began writing eight years ago, and two and a half years ago partnered with a deeply gifted co-author, Donna Walsh Inglehart. She convinced me this was more than a travelogue, that it should become a memoir and steered it in that direction."
Set aside a while for the download. And look for it on your iPad as if it were an app rather than a book. "Only an app can support what it does," Ian explained.
Ian gave us a code to redeem a copy so we downloaded it over dinner. Then we sat down with it that evening and forgot all about going to bed.
We have to confess that we were a little lost at first. There's a nice opening video, which you access by swiping over the cover photo. In the introductory video Ian flies you over the St. Lawrence River to his one island in a thousand, Raleigh. You know right away this is no ordinary ebook.
The video leads to a short video guide to navigation, some elegant maps, the bios and the text. The guide makes clear very quickly how this ebook is different and just how easy it is to enjoy all that it has to offer.
We settled in, got our bearings and swiped away, transported across the continent to a place we'd never been. A chapter or three into it we thought we were done. But no, there are 24 chapters, we discovered to our delight.
Each chapter opens with a page you can have Ian read out loud to you. As you swipe your way through the chapter, you encounter slide shows, images you can enlarge and find on a map, a very nice little progress indicator taken from the iPad's own multiscreen indicator itself and more audio clips.
In an unusual twist, we must say, none of these interactive elements are disruptive. Instead, as you read along and wish you could hear the night sounds Ian describes, you find an audio link to them. Or as you wish you could see the images he describes taking, you find a link to them. And when you're done listening or viewing, you go right back to where you were in the text because these extras dismiss themselves politely.
The book includes over 450 photographs (both film and digital originals, some of which have never before been published), 20 minutes of video, slideshows, an interactive map of the archipelago, a soundtrack composed by Great Lake Swimmers and the text.
It's quite an entertaining text too without being, what's the word, made for TV. Ian tells his remarkable story simply. You won't get bored reading as he tells you about his career driving race cars, several brushes with the Grim Reaper, a few dogs, a bunch of bugs who became his buddies, small craft advisories, restoring an ancient cabin without the help of This Old House, an adventure in prepress and, well, more.
It took us three days to go through the whole experience (skipping a meal or two in our enthusiasm to continue) and, at the end, we wanted more. Which is just the way it should be.
You want, as Marvin Mudrick used to say, a good book to last.
So we were alarmed the other night to hear in a Frontline piece called "Digital Nation" that college English professors no longer felt they could assign a book over 200 pages. No student today has the time to read a longer book. They're too distracted by social media, which eats up at least 50 hours a week even for children.
Ian's book would bend that curve the other way, we think. They'd suddenly be inexplicably absent from their social media whirl, failing to tweet for days and neglecting to update their Facebook pages as they swiped through Ian's life story to see what happens next.
It's that engaging.
"We believe this is a 'world' story," Ian explained, "reinventing how stories can be told as the publishing world reinvents itself in a more powerful way. I believe and McLellan Group does too, that this is an even bigger revolution than digital music and digital photography, because publishing is an even bigger industry than those and far more deeply flawed."
Doug McLellan of The McLellan Group, which produced the multimedia title, told us a little about the task that confronted them.
The approach was inspired by Al Gore's Our Choice ebook, which has been produced by Push Pop Press using software they'd developed over two years but planned to make available for others to self publish. Before that could happen, though, "Mark Zuckerberg came along and purchased Push Pop's software for the exclusive use of Facebook. He immediately shut it down," Doug said.
Ian eventually partnered with The McLellan Group to put all the pieces of his story together in a compelling package.
"For us this was an exercise in concept over function," Doug said. "We had a vision before the first line of code was ever conceived and the challenge was to find a set of tools that would allow us to move forward without sacrificing design and the user experience."
"Even though Aquafadas was a relatively new and immature toolset," Doug explained, "it was the one we best felt could be manipulated to perform to our vision. We repurposed code to perform and act in ways it was never intended to, going well above and beyond what was available out of the box. We engineered solutions that expanded on what we had available.
"For example, in Aquafadas a slideshow can't popup in full screen and play back automatically. We wrote new code that in the end, gave us a slideshow that contains many moving parts, hidden layers and buttons that allowed us to display Ian's photography in a manner we felt best showcased his work. No other slideshow built within the Aquafadas toolkit, could function the way ours did.
And then Apple introduced the New iPad, which presented new problems with "how the new processor and screen processed data." Doug's team had to completely revamp the opening cover animation so it worked across all iPads. "In the end we were very happy," he said. "The result is a seamless experience for the end user and the reviews from purchasers, magazines, radio stations and book reviewers have all been first rate."
DxO Labs also played a role in Ian's work. As Ian explains in a behind-the-scenes video, "The thing I appreciate most about using DxO is this lighting engine. And suddenly the images that were throw-aways before just blossomed."
He fell in love with Optics Pro after his second book of photos was published. "If you could magically have some way of eliminating all the flaws in your camera and in your lenses," he wonders, "and instantly correct for all of that so the starting point of your pictures is 15 to 50 percent better before you do any kind of editing to them at all, why would you not do that?"
If there's a theme that recurs in Ian's story, it's his appreciation for the way things have of accidentally just working out. As the hotelier in the movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel puts it, "Everything will be all right in the end. So if it is not all right, it is not yet the end."
And when it does work out, it always seems to work out much better than you might have hoped (which certainly keeps you swiping pages).
"Whether this finds a world audience or not, it has been a wonderful adventure and I feel incredibly fortunate to have met all these incredibly talented and motivated people who have done so much to help bring this vision to life," Ian told us. "I hope this doesn't sound like an exaggeration because it is not. This was an entirely accidental project that became the culmination of a lifetime's experience and effort."
And that's what makes it the kind of book you'd take with you if, say, you had just bought a desert island and could only take along an ebook on an iPad to inform and inspire you.