Arthur Yorinks, a playwright, director, and author of more than three dozen children’s books, has just launched Lost Marbles Books, an online digital publishing venture, in collaboration with OR Books, a publisher that focuses on selling direct to consumers via the Internet. Each week, Lost Marbles delivers to subscribers a short story or essay written by Yorinks or a guest contributor. The company’s Web site features separate sections for children’s and adult stories. The initial selections for children are The Wooden Table, It Happened in Pinsk, and The Scribbler. These are all written by Yorinks, as are the first three adult stories, How Do Spiders Sleep?, Lost Keys, and Dogs Matter.
Readers have the option of subscribing to Lost Marbles (for $19.95 annually until February 28 and $24.95 thereafter) or purchasing stories separately for $1.29 each. Those who subscribe to both the children’s and adult programs at the same time can do so for an introductory price of $35. Ever week, subscribers receive an e-mail with a link to the new story, which can be accessed on various reading devices, including iPad, Kindle, Nook, and Sony Reader. Lost Marble subscribers can also opt to receive the story as a PDF file to read on a computer or smart phone.
Given the digital format of the publishing venture, Lost Marbles is in many ways a throwback, explained Yorinks, who won the 1987 Caldecott Medal for Hey, Al. “I’m really an old-style print guy,” he said. “I’ve been doing books for quite a while, and have been approached many times to do things electronically, but I wasn’t interested. I realized, maybe five years ago, how many kids are using apps and reading devices, and that the digital world is going to continue and grow. Instead of dismissing that world I decided to embrace it, but embrace it by providing good literature in words alone, without images, audio, or animation. I want to get kids reading rather than playing games on these devices.”
Though the children’s selections from Lost Marbles will be largely geared to readers ages three to nine, none will include illustrations. “I have nothing against pictures,” said Yorinks. “The greatest joy in my publishing life has been collaborating with terrific artists, like Maurice Sendak, William Steig, and David Small. I do not dismiss the value of a printed picture book. But part of the mission here is to give children, as well as adults, an intimate reading experience, concentrating on the simple pleasure of reading. It’s all about the story and the words.”
Though Yorinks’s stories, 95% of which will be new, will form the core of Lost Marbles’ offerings, he will eventually add selections by others. “A lot of writers have expressed interest in contributing stories, and we will announce some names in the future,” he said. “Another function of this venture is to create a place where it is not so complicated for writers to have a voice. I am very interested in terrific short stories by others, and expect to include works by guest contributors at least once a month.”
And why the name Lost Marbles? “Well, some may think that a Web-based venture dependent on subscribers may be a little insane and I should have my head examined,” he replied. “But another meaning is that Lost Marbles will, here and there, offer some of my work that has been out-of-print – lost, in a way. And the selections will include many stories that have never been distributed electronically. I like the idea of readers discovering a special story – like you sometimes find marbles in a drawer, or under a couch – that really hits them.”