Digital Covers for Over 400 Children's Books
September 27, 2013 8:27 AM   Subscribe

Digital Covers for Over 400 Children's Books
I'm digitizing the covers of a significant portion of my children's book collection and posting them to my Flickr account. Among the items in that collection is a book shaped card game called Dr. Quack which is sort of like Mad Libs. I've parsed out the story and the accompanying cards into a twitter feed just for snicks and giggles. The rest of the books are typically either science books, textbooks, or early examples of cross media licensing based on comic strips, radio shows, TV shows, or movies.

The majority of the books in the collection are the product of a now near-defunct publisher by the name of Whitman. If you know anything about the history of twentieth century American children's books, the Whitman I'm referring to is the one that was in Racine, Wisconsin, not the one in Chicago. Their best know product was probably the Big Little books. Technically the company still exists but it doesn't publish children's books anymore, pretty much just numismatic books.

Another part of the collection is early readers, like the Dick and Jane books. It's worth noting that in a couple of instances I have the same editions from 1963, when the books were lily white, and from 1964, when people of color began to appear in them. I also have an example of a "separate by equal" textbook that is nothing of the sort. This book has pages missing and pages out of order, and is so cheaply made that we're lucky any still exist.

I intend to do a bit more research on these books and post the results of that research to my blog.
Role: Collector, Digitizer, Eventual Contextualizer
posted by Toekneesan (7 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
This project was posted to MetaFilter by jazon on September 30, 2013: Digital Covers for Over 400 Children's Books

Oh man, a hard copy of the Golden Book of Chemistry Experiments. Well done.
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:38 AM on September 27, 2013

That should be "separate but equal."
posted by Toekneesan at 8:56 AM on September 27, 2013

Great collection! This one caught my eye right away: Head-on perspective! Sally and Bobby in front - Mommy shoved in back! Daddy's giant head! No safety seats! No over-the-shoulder seat belts!
posted by jazon at 10:31 AM on September 27, 2013

...and jazon, all in a car that looks smaller than today's subcompacts! What caught MY eye were the appearances of Fred Gwynne (as a potentially sacrilegious author/illustrator) and Phyllis Diller (as the face of a coupon deal hard-bound into a Flintstones book!)

This is so awesomely wonderful that my cynical self just knows somebody from the "doesn't publish children's books anymore" company is going to come out of the woodwork with 'intellectual property' legal threats. Because no good deed goes unpunished and this is REAL GOOD.
posted by oneswellfoop at 5:35 PM on September 27, 2013

No worries. These are covers which are marketing materials and technically in the commons. If they should try and pull any shit with me I will gladly take them on. I work in publishing and I'm pretty sure I'm not taking any significant risks here. Marketing materials are a whole different thing. I can also point out that as part of a curated collection, my presentation of these materials is both educational, and by way arrangement, transformative. So I'm not all that concerned.

Worth noting though that the Whitman books are actually not under Whitman's copyright. I scanned the Gentle Ben copyright page to point that out. When Whitman licensed, they didn't demand copyright of the resulting materials as is much more common today. Instead they let the creator of the original material hold the copyright of both the Whitman produced text and illustrations. These days the licensor is much more likely to surrender the copyright to the publisher, but assert ownership of the trademarked characters and story properties. So if anyone comes after me it would be those originators like Disney and Hanna Barbara, not Whitman. I've been thinking about how similar but different it is to Amazon's Kindle Worlds program, and when I finally get around to blogging about it, I think that's the angle I'm going to take.
posted by Toekneesan at 6:49 PM on September 27, 2013

This is great. I wonder if we can find a way to get these covers uploaded to Open Library so we could take advantage of them....
posted by jessamyn at 10:24 AM on October 7, 2013

I have access to the files, the question is how do we connect them to the book record. Most of these don't really have identifiers I could match.
posted by Toekneesan at 1:34 PM on October 7, 2013

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