British author-illustrator Babette Cole, known for cheeky picture-book titles such as Princess Smartypants, has started a digital publishing company called Inky Sprat. It launched in February with e-book versions of three of her works and plans to release electronic versions of other previously published titles by Cole as well as books by other authors.
“I had a number of books to which I owned the e-rights, so we thought we’d make them into e-books ourselves,” Cole says. “We” is Cole, filmmaker Manus Home, and editor Neil Baber, formerly of U.K. publishers Phaidon Press and David & Charles. The three live near each other in Devon, England, and Cole says they “realized that between us we had the skills to make e-books as well as film videos of the author to go with them. It then occurred to us that lots of authors had rights to their work and would welcome the chance to see them available again, and the opportunity to present them and connect with their audience in a new and exciting way. So we started Inky Sprat.”
Three Cole titles – Lady Lupin’s Book of Etiquette, The Trouble with Mum, and Cupid – are currently available; releases of books in Cole’s Trouble With series are next. So far, all the titles are iBook only, but Cole says that when the technology is there, the company will make the books available for other color tablets as well. Inky Sprat is also speaking with a number of other authors about developing their titles as e-books, among them Tony Ross, David McKee, Charlotte Voake, and Emma Chichester Clark, with the hope of publishing some of those authors later this year.
Just prior to Inky Sprat’s launch, Cole separately released an app version of her picture book Mummy Laid an Egg for iPad and iPhone. Though she says that down the line, Inky Sprat may delve into apps, “We are very keen to promote the idea of our e-books being about books and stories, not gaming. It’s incredibly important [that] children do not lose out on the enjoyment and learning experience of reading books in the new digital world.”
That emphasis on the primacy of books is reflected in the company’s name, Cole says. “I liked the idea of ‘inky’ because, although these books are digital, the artwork still starts life with inks or paint and an inky-fingered artists somewhere. Plus, the URL was available!”