Farrar, Straus & Giroux is planning an August release for Scientific American’s Journey to the Exoplanets by Edward Bell and Ron Miller, FSG’s first app and the first product produced under the auspices of the Scientific American imprint at FSG, a copublishing venture launched late last year between the two Macmillan companies. The app is a collection of speculative digital artwork that imagines the look and terrain of new planets discovered far beyond our solar system.
Thomas LeBien, publisher of Hill & Wang and the Scientific American imprint at FSG , told PW that Journey to the Exoplanets brings together the most current scientific data on “hundreds, if not thousands of planets outside our solar system. It’s some of the most exciting research going on in planetary science and tries to show what it might be like to reach these planets.” He compared Journey to the Exoplanets to Theodore Gray’s bestselling app/book on the periodic table. The Journey to the Exoplanets app brings together a collection of essays from a range of astronomers and other scientists as well as the “beautiful speculative artwork” of Ron Miller, a Hugo Award winning illustrator, who has used scientific data as a basis for imagining and visually representing what these planets may look like.
While the app is expected to be released in mid-August, a micro-site devoted to the title will go live today. The project was originally pitched to FSG as a giant illustrated print book project, but LeBien said “the research data is changing so quickly and we believed people would like to interact with all this new information. It raises a lot of the questions that scientists are talking about and pointed to doing the book as an app.” The app will feature essays, video and audio clips and variety of interactive features including the ability to design a planet. Readers will see how different kinds of stars affect exoplanets and offer experiments that explain the science behind the images featured on the app.
The project is being overseen by FSG senior editor Amanda Moon, who described the app’s visuals as “renderings of what these planets might look like.” She said that all of Miller’s artwork is done on the computer and that the artwork is based data as well as conversations with planetary scientists about what they are seeing.” The book also offers about 20,000 words of text that explains what is a planet, what’s a star, what’s an exoplanet and how they are found.”
The app was developed by U.K.-based app developer Brandwidth. Moon said FSG/SA Books is also, “open to the possibility of doing more science-oriented apps, We’ve learned a lot doing this one.” She said the contract for the Miller and Bell is, “different” than the usual contract in book publishing. The coauthors get a flat fee paid in two installments and are eligible for a “bonus” flat payment, “if the app does well,” she said. Pricing is still being discussed but Moon also mentioned The Elements, which sells for $13.99, as a possible model, “it’s got great content, basic scientific experiments, it’s not an impulse purchase.”
Edward Bell is a contributing editor at Scientific American as well as a former art director at the magazine. He also produces interactive multimedia videos and graphics for science based websites. Miller’s artwork has appeared in Scientifioc American as well as National Geographic and he is a much sought after science-fiction illustrator. The app will also feature a video introduction by Scientific American editor-in-chief Mariette DiChristina
The app includes essays by James F. Kasting, professor of geosciences at Penn State, Sara Seager, professor of planetary sciences and Physics at MIT, Caleb A. Scharf, director of Columbia University's Astrobiology Center, Nancy Y. Kiang, terrestrial biometeorologist and biogeochemist at Columbia University and other distinguished contributors.
LeBien said the app is “not a vehicle to sell other books,” and said it’s not an “enhanced e-book or a trial balloon.” He said “it’s designed as an app and we want to do it well. It allows us to team up with Scientific American’s editors and experts and exploit its ability to reach readers. We can leverage both publishers’s strengths.”