Book Arsenal-2018: Space and virtual reality for the new generation of readers

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Written by Sergiy Vakarin, UkraineIS Chairman of the Board

The annual Book Arsenal has always been a snapshot of the Ukrainian society with its problems and expectations. But we live in the Internet age. That’s why I decided not only to organize one of the events at Arsenal this year, but also to research how authors and publishers interact with readers in the 21st century.

The first way is based on hi-tech. The highlight of this year’s Arsenal has been Books and Virtual Reality event, which I organized for a group of students, mainly from Kyiv’s  School # 181, together with their teacher Zoya Porazhynska. I organized many other events with these new-generation researchers, which introduced young people to ways of high-tech use in science and culture. Two remarkable examples are 3d books where a reader with anaglyphic glasses can see the volumetric relief of the Earth (a demonstration by Mykhailo Samiylenko), or virtual reality applications that create animations of art works (SIMO AR technology).

Virtual reality is especially helpful for young people and children to get interested in the heroes of classical and new books. Authors like Kafka may not be too easy to comprehend but you find a good incentive when you virtually become THE protagonist – for example, Gregor Samsa of The Metamorphosis. The full virtual reality by the Czech developers Achtung 4K and 4Each (VRwandlung/The Metamorphosis VR project directed by Mika Johnson) was presented at the Frankfurt Book Fair and then at the Arsenal by Ján Tompkins. Become a giant ant and see what happens!

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And for the youngest readers, Meet Tukoni VR project was presented by New Cave Media with the support of LuckyBox. The illustrations were presented by Oksana Bula, the author of the book about Tukoni ,the fairytale friends of the forest, published by the Old Lion Publishing House. Children in VR glasses were looking for the Tukoni who were hiding behind virtual trees, and when the kids looked at them, they would come out and tell about themselves. Acquaintance with Tukoni was not less fascinating to the adults: President Poroshenko also tried to find the “Ukrainian Pokemons” in the virtual forest.

The second outreach strategy is communication with the prominent people-turned-authors. Some of these authors are true celebrities in Ukraine, and the huge Arsenal space was full of their readers. Fortunately, the guests from the other side of the Pond came for a longer period. So I was fortunate to se Anne Applebaum of the Washington Post before the Arsenal but managed to talk with Dorjee Batuu only after the event. His work brings us to the next point of our study.

The third way can be called “real fiction”. The modern science and technology are so incredible that science fiction often drags behind. Dorje Batuu’s Francesca, the Queen of Trajectories (The Old Lion Publishing House) is a striking example. The book is in fact about NASA engineers who control satellites and spacecraft. The author, whose real name is Andriy Vasiliev, used to be a Ukrainian news correspondent, and now he is a NASA operator. Dorje Batuu is one of the potential participants of the Space and Future Forum.

Leonid Kadenyuk’s Mission Space is another example of such “real fiction”. Incredible adventures and occupations of such authors inspire the new generation of readers.

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Many interesting publications were also presented by other publishers, including the Summit Book, whose publications are usually masterpieces of design. And this is the fourth, aesthetic way to promote books. Summit Book published my illustrated book New Generation Wins: Independent Ukraine is 25.

What is really important is that young people and children are delighted to read books that communicate with them in modern language, especially the language of hi-tech. And this gives the future to the books, and hence to humanity.

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