In 1994, Elizabeth Mann's second grade class at P.S. 321 in Brooklyn was studying the borough's most famous landmark, the Brooklyn Bridge. The walls were covered with bridge pictures and diagrams. The floor was covered with bridges made from Legos, block, even cereal boxes. There was one thing missing: books.
Elizabeth did some research and learned about the Roebling's, the extraordinary family that spent 14 years building the bridge. When she gathered the students on the rug and told them the story, hands shot up. There were questions, comments, opinions. Students began thinking of the bridge in a new way, making new connections. The story had brought the Brooklyn Bridge to life.
This was the genesis of Elizabeth Mann's award-winning book, The Brooklyn Bridge. It was also the beginning of a unique publishing company, Mikaya Press, founded in 1995 by Elizabeth Mann and her husband, writer and editor Stuart Waldman.
For 16 years, Mikaya has published nonfiction books. All have had superlative reviews. Many have won awards. Not one is out of print. Why? There are beautiful illustrations and photos, useful diagrams, maps, charts, timelines. These are all important elements, but there is an overriding philosophy that is more important, one born in that second grade classroom. People need narratives. Whether it's about building bridges, discovering continents, or learning how the earth was formed, a well written narrative is essential to turn facts into knowledge.
This philosophy is just as valid now as Mikaya Press, like every other publisher confronts the 21st century and the digital world. Publishing is on the threshold of enormous change. Like radio in 1920 and television in 1945, it's exciting and unpredictable. Nobody knows where publishing is going and what it's going to look like when it get's there.
One thing is for sure: with the tools the new technology offers, it's easy to get lost in dazzle. All too often we see enhanced books, app books, book apps —the nomenclature isn't even clear yet—that overflow with brilliant graphics, music, movement, things flying and twirling, glitz and glitter. In the end all that sound and fury can signify not much.
With Mikaya Digital, we are following the same philosophy in digital as we did in print. We will have great images, exciting graphics, sound, music, motion, every tool available now and in the future. But it will always be grounded by good writing and a coherent narrative structure.
After all, technology may change. People don't.