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Ontario designer turns David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” into a digital kids’ book

Andrew Kolb’s digital prototype

David Bowie’s 1969 song “Space Oddity” isn’t the most likely source for a children’s book, given that its main character, Major Tom, ends up alone, stuck in space while floating in his tin can (also, some music fans believe it’s an ode to heroin). But when Andrew Kolb, a freelance illustrator and design instructor from Kitchener, Ontario, wanted to create a children’s storybook as a portfolio piece for his website, he gravitated toward the classic tune.

“There are a lot of songs that have that clear visual flow from start to finish for me, but I really like the imagery of this song in particular,” he says.

Kolb’s clean, vintage-inspired imagery has struck a chord with music and design fans, too. On Saturday he posted the prototype Space Oddity as a free, downloadable PDF on his website. By Tuesday, it had received more than 30,000 unique visitors, and had been covered on various high profile websites, including Slate, i09, and Wired, causing Kolb’s website to occasionally crash.

“I usually get a slow, steady pace of hits, but this is like a monsoon,” says Kolb, laughing.

The 28-page book concept – the first kids’ title he’s worked on – took Kolb three to four months to design in his spare time. “I could have done half a dozen pages and put it up on my website to show people if they were interested,” he says, “but I did the whole thing just on a whim thinking maybe one day this will catch on.”

Kolb’s dream is to see Space Oddity turned into an actual print book, something his new fans are already asking for. But that, of course, will depend on Ziggy Stardust himself. Kolb hasn’t been able to get the book to the iconic rock star, yet. He says, “By pure saturation of the Internet, hopefully we can reach him.”

  • Paul

    He made an ebook of a Bowie song without permission (i.e. in violation of copyright), and got a whole lot of personal promotion out of it? And he has the gall to write in the “copyright page” of the ebook “All rights respected (as best I can),” when he can’t even be bothered to contact the author of the lyrics for permission prior to distributing it? Hardly respect for Bowie, when on Kolb’s website he says “So, since I’m sure the legal action of Mr. Bowie would be swift and sparkly, I figured I’d offer the full book to download for free!” Apparently a contempt for authors and copyright is okay as long as you put an enthusiastic exclamation mark after it! :)

    I would have thought Q&Q would have had better sense than to rebroadcast self-serving bs like “Kolb hasn’t been able to get the book to the iconic rock star, yet. He says, “By pure saturation of the Internet, hopefully we can reach him” when surely he could have made the effort to a) submit a query through Bowie’s website, b) contact Bowie’s agent, c) contact his art agent or another representative, or d) write to EMI, which may or may not hold rights to the lyrics. And if these failed, maybe he could have simply had the common courtesy wait until he was able to eventually get hold of the author of the lyrics before exploiting them in a colossal blast of self-promotion?

  • Barry

    While I normally don’t agree with much of what Paul says, he’s right about this one. Kolb doesn’t appear to have received permission to use Bowie’s lyrics, and in fact, appears to not understand copyright law at all. He says on his site that he’s offering it as a free download in order to avoid legal action by Bowie. Well, giving it away for free does NOT make it legal, any more than if I walked into the grocery store, picked up a bag of apples, then went outside and gave them away.

    It’s theft, plain and simple. This sort of thing should not be celebrated. It’s not a difficult matter to contact a rights holder to get permission to use their lyrics — well, it’s only difficult if you don’t actually want to pay for the right. That doesn’t make it okay to steal.

  • PeterC

    Sigh. Another example of why so much of what Ewan Morrison said is so true:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/aug/22/are-books-dead-ewan-morrison

    ‘No man but a blockhead every wrote [or illustrated, or designed] except for money.’ Sadly, the world is full’ of blockheads.

  • musicgirl28

    Any so-called artist stealing from a real artist should be ashamed of themselves!

  • Shaun
  • Poetaster

    In light of PeterC’s comment . . .

    . . . KOLB backwards is BLOK(head).

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