Remaking the LightBook: Fairy Tales

This is the latest iteration of the LightBook, made as a present for a friend.

Moving of the book controls the tiny lights on the front cover. When the book is picked up, the blue lights on the cover fade up to full. When the book lies flat, the lights turn out.

Finding the book

I had been looking for the right book for a few months. The book has to feel right when it’s picked up: a decent weight and balance in the hand. The paper must be of a good thickness and work with the type and lettering. The cover must be hardboard, and have an intricate design or embossed pattern. It’s got to have the feeling of a well-loved book, with handwritten notes scribbled between the pages.

I found it in November in a second hand book shop: a hardback copy of Hans Andersen’s Fairy Tales, bound in brown cloth with gold and blue decoration. Inside there are colour drawings by Phyllis Reilly, illustrating the short stories.

It looks and feels like a magical book.

In this iteration, I wanted to explore hiding more of the Arduino components in the cover.

LightBook: Fairy Tales is based on a modified version of the LightBook code, and the connections are altered slightly too. This version uses 4 blue LEDs.

Making the book

A quick sketch of the new design for the Arduino, pins and components for Fairy Tales.

New endpapers were made for the front of the book, to conceal the connections between the Arduino and the LEDs on the front cover. The Lilypad Arduino and accelerometer are taped in place before the connections are sewn.

Then the connections are sewn on the endpapers with conductive thread.

Underneath the new endpapers, the conductive thread is held with electrical tape to insulate the threads from touching.

The Arduino is connected to 4 blue LEDs on the cover of Fairy Tales. The blue LEDs match the intricate blue bird-and-flower design around the edge of the cover.

The Arduino and accelerometer sewn in place on to the new endpaper.

Bug testing the book. Fairy Tales is connected up to the MacBook Air by USB. At this point, the MacBook is able to talk to the paper-bound book.

After passing the testing phase, the endpapers are fixed in place. Then the final piece of work is started: cutting a hole in the pages to give space for the Arduino, so the book cover will sit flat when it’s closed.

The finished book.

Make a LightBook: full code and instructions.

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