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Young author, big idea

Alex Richards is just like any other 13-year-old except for one thing, he's a published author. Hugh John reports

If nothing else, the heartening success of Alex Richards goes some way towards dispelling the cliched representation of computer-savvy kids as maladjusted foot shuffling anoraks with little better to do than hack into Government defence networks while running up huge chatroom telephone bills. Alex is as "normal" as any 13-year-old schoolboy can possibly be and spends much of his leisure time playing football or skateboarding with friends in Suffolk.

He also enjoys surfing the Web and chatting over the Internet and it's these two interests that have resulted in the publication of his book. Basic Web Page Creation Using Word 2000 was written during the summer holidays and has attracted substantial interest from the education community with over 1,000 copies of the book being ordered prior to its publication last month. Proud mum, Rosemary Richards is delighted that Alex's idea has been taken up. "He spent a lot of his summer holidays up in his room and it's good to see that the hard work was worth it." Reaction from friends was mixed, says Alex. Some of them thought it was, "a bit geeky, but most of them thought it was great. And when they heard about the royaltiesI" Alex had previously created several websites of hs own and given advice to friends on Web building techniques. Finding that local bookshops and libraries didn't have much suitable information on the subject, he decided to write his own book, aimed primarily at 8 to 13-year-olds but also suitable for, "beginners of all ages who want simple, easy to follow instructions on how to get their own place on the World Wide Web".

The book is one of a collection of eight - Basic ICT Skills - published by Ipswich firm Payne-Gallway. Series editor Pat Heathcote met Alex and decided that his proposed book would complement the others in the series. Not least because Microsoft Word - the program used to produce the Web pages - is a software package familiar to most home and school computer users. So with no additional expense for software and with Alex showing readers how to get free Web space, users can create their own Web pages for the cost of the book, a paltry pound;4.95.

Produced in full colour and illustrated with a set of lively cartoon characters, Basic Web Creation should appeal to children of all ages interested in developing their own websites.

Alex will be attending BETT 2001 on the Payne-Gallway stand (PZ35-PZ36) to launch his new book It is available from BEBC Distribution, PO Box 3371, Poole, Dorset, BH12 3LL as well as all high street bookshops.Tel: 01202 712909

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