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MailTribune.com
  • justtellmeastory.com

    Ashland couple create their own world of e-books for children
  • Parents of little ones have all been there.
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  • Parents of little ones have all been there.
    It's bedtime, maybe past bedtime. You've read a story, sung a song, said a prayer, kissed and said goodnight.
    Then comes the not-so-unexpected: "Read me just one more story, pleeeeez."
    Robert and Jodie Arellano are smack in the middle of that world with two boys, 6 and 3.
    "Our boys have fertile imaginations and they want stories all the time," Robert Arellano said. "We've read everything on the shelf a dozen times and everything in the Talent, Ashland and Phoenix libraries."
    By choice, few "cartoony mass-media characters" are in the bedtime lineup, said Arellano, director of Southern Oregon University's emerging media and digital arts center.
    Surveying the download options for his e-reader, Arellano discovered there weren't many and surmised there was a great opportunity.
    "I peeked on the iBook store and there wasn't much, some old books, some great ones now in public domain," he said. "I realized there was a chance for parents to download one more bedtime story for 99 cents."
    Arellano secured the justtellmeastory.com domain and snatched up similar ones to protect against coattail riders.
    "I suspect this is an emergent model for a second business with a very, very low overhead," he admitted. "Except for our digital SLR camera and our computer, we got started for less than a hundred bucks."
    Just Tell Me a Story began selling its initial titles — "Zarzamora and the Blackberry Fairy" and "Monsters Like Picnics" on iTunes bookstore and Kindle store this week. The plan is to release one title per month through 2013.
    "We've got three more written and another shot," Arellano said.
    Arellano reasons many children's books seem to drag beyond optimal length.
    "We've kept them 10 to 15 pages," he said. "They are very short by design. I do have an ulterior motive. I've seen some beautifully done children's books that are too long — clearly not written by a dad. If you are reading a 15-page short story, you can get away with one more story in under 10 minutes. Kids like to page back, especially with a nice display."
    Rather than use illustrations by artists on the project, Jodie Arellano digitally photographed the hand-crafted felt and wood doll characters on the banks of Wagner Creek in Talent, not far from the Arellanos' home.
    "Since our subjects included picnics, fairies and gnomes, we decided, why not capture the beautiful environment that fits our tableaus," he said.
    Arellano turned in the first electronic graduate thesis at Brown University 20 years ago and has authored six novels and edited regional magazines. He headed up the Academy for Literacy and Cultural Studies at the University of New Mexico in Taos before moving to Ashland two years ago.
    He was recently in Miami promoting his latest literary effort, "Curse of the Names." Arellano slipped in samples of the children's effort and found a positive response.
    "We're going to be seeing lots of fairies and sprites throughout this next year," he said.
    Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or email business@mailtribune.com.
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