German Publisher Creates Picture Dictionary for Syrian Refugees

In News by Dennis Abrams

photo welcome abcs

An author and illustrator worked with PubCoder and Munich’s arsEdition to quickly publish an interactive picture dictionary to help with Syrian refugees.

By Dennis Abrams

In an effort to make it easier for Syrian refugees and their children to integrate and communicate with volunteers in their new home in Germany, author Casper Amster and his wife, illustrator Anna Karina Birkenstock, working with the German publisher arsEdition, have created a new interactive 150-word picture dictionary.

The idea for the interactive book came from the observation that most refugees do, perhaps surprisingly, have smartphones. The book, which was put together in just three days using PubCoder, is called Das Willkomens ABC (“The Welcome ABC) immediately sent to #1 on the iBooks charts.

PubCoder’s Enrico Gazzano spoke with Amster about how the project came together:

“The Willkommens-ABC project is having a great success and getting a lot of attention from the media in Germany. Can you please tell us how it started, how it came together, what is “special” about the project?”

“The Willkommens-ABC is a free picture dictionary for refugees and volunteers. It contains about 150 pictures of everyday things like spoons, traffic lights and Teddy Bears with German and English captions.

“The idea came about when my wife, Anna Karina Birkenstock, worked as a volunteer with children in a refugee camp in our town. For her as an illustrator it was easy to quickly draw pictures to communicate with children. But her colleagues had to use commercial picture dictionaries. ‘There should be a free picture dictionary!,’ she concluded, “And there should be a digital version of it, as many volunteers also used smartphones.” Therefore Anna Karina called up arsEdition in Munich, a publishing company she works for as an illustrator, and asked for support.

“The publisher was very enthusiastic about the idea, assembled another 25 illustrators, and arranged the Willkommens-ABC in a PDF format. But the publisher did not have the knowledge to produce the App and the eBook. Therefore I offered to produce the digital version. My wife and I designed a layout optimized for smartphones as these would be probably the most used devices. We also designed self-explanatory navigation and included audio. A friendly audio production company recorded the 150 words in German and English with a professional speaker. Everyone involved on this project worked for free.”

“Why did you use PubCoder, and how long did it take to create it once assets were ready?”

“With PubCoder I was able to create the eBook and the App in one step. The software is mostly self-explanatory and easy to use. One of the great features is the possibility to create different layouts for different devices, so it was easy to design a layout for an epub3 for iBooks for Apple and a different layout for the android app.

“The preparation and assembling was much longer than the actual design and creation. After all, we had over 150 audio files and pictures. Once everything was ready it then took me only about three days to create the App and the eBook. That’s not possible without the help from a tool like PubCoder and we really had to work hard to meet the deadline (the Frankfurt Book Fair).”

The PDF, the ebook (EPUB3) and the app (Android) can be downloaded on the project’s webpage

About the Author

Dennis Abrams

Dennis Abrams is a contributing editor for Publishing Perspectives, responsible for news, children's publishing and media. He's also a restaurant critic, literary blogger, and the author of "The Play's The Thing," a complete YA guide to the plays of William Shakespeare published by Pentian, as well as more than 30 YA biographies and histories for Chelsea House publishers.