Walker 27/09/12 – options for picture books as eBooks

This is a painting I did of Adam, my husband, but it does make him look a bit older than he really is – sorry Adam! Adam gives me technical advice about computer software, takes great photos of my paintings and also acts as a sounding board for my strange ideas.

My technical frustrations with my eBook, ‘Tales by Torchlight: Shoe Zoo’

At the moment I only have one children’s eBook in the iTunes iBookstore but I do plan to do more, especially if I can’t find a literary agent to represent me. The trouble is, I have some reservations about the software I used for making my eBook, Apple’s ‘iBooks Author’, in that it is really designed for creating text books. Also, my eBook is in Apple’s iTunes iBookstore but it doesn’t come up when people search for children’s books because other authors have incorrectly entered future release dates for their books and that brings up their books to the top of the list. Some of these dates are years into the future and my book comes up so far behind, nobody finds it! I have told Apple about this problem – I don’t know why they allow authors to enter future dates at all…

I have asked Adam to go through my options for using other ways of publishing a picture book for children as an eBook:

iBooks Author

Becky is an artist and not a programmer. She can use photoshop and has graphic design skills so was able to put the book together herself. It’s very user friendly but as Becky says, ‘iBooks Author’ is really focused on producing text books. You can produce pages which include graphics but they are not interactive in any way. If you want to have an interactive element then you have to create a widget that does what you want. This widget can then be put on the page but you only see the interactive content of the widget when you click on it. iBooks Author also allows you to highlight text and this function can not be turned off. As a result, the reader can accidentally highlight words and this can interfere with the telling of the story.

ISSUU

ISSUU is an interesting alternative. ISSUU provides an online reader for books, or maybe more honestly magazines. As far as I can see from the ISSUU site, all the publications are free. There may be a way of making them chargeable but it certainly is not obvious. Maybe ISSUU will consider this at some point in the future. Publications in ISSUU are not interactive, you can insert hotspots that link off the web but the publication is basically presented in a conventional page by page format. The overall presentation is very good and when you want to move to the next page, you see the page turn- nice touch!

This is a link to a friend’s publication on ISSUU: http://issuu.com/chuckelliott/docs/synaesthetic_by_chuck_elliott_v1.1

Websites

One of the solutions we have been discussing is to produce our own website that can host properly interactive books. It is certainly possible to create virtually any interactivity you could imagine within a website. Using a tightly defined coding style for the mark up language and rigid use of the existing standards, a new ebook format could be realised. Protecting the copyright of the book would be challenging though. Ultimately, it may be possible to create or encourage the open source community to create a web browser that would allow authors to protect their web content.

Kindle

Kindle isn’t an option for children’s picture books as it doesn’t allow you to put in graphics, you can’t fix the look of each page and it isn’t interactive.

Apps

When I say ‘Apps’ I mean applications on an iPhone, iPad or Android device. There are two basic approaches when considering using Apps for interactive books. The most obvious is to simply create each publication as a dedicated application. This is very possible, but requires programming skills and is very time intensive. Also, once finished, changing elements could be very challenging. Over time you would develop a library of useful functions that will make each successive book a little easier. I feel that you would need a reasonable number of applications to make the initial time invested worth while.

The other approach is associated with the idea of web hosted books. It would not be particularly difficult to create a custom web browser as an App that could render an interactive page of a book very effectively. The App could validate and protect the content without a huge amount of difficulty. It would also be possible to create an offline browsing mode where the book is downloaded as an encrypted archive. My feeling at the moment is that the combination of a website to manage user details, logins and purchases linked to a reader App could be a very effective solution. It is exactly the same mode of operation as the Kindle and many other ebook readers.

At the moment it is difficult for writers/ illustrators without programming skills to create a children’s picture eBook. Hopefully, a new piece of software will be released that will be easy to use, standardised and easy to upload…

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About jellywalk

I am a professional artist who is happy to take commissions, be they portraits, paintings of baby ultrasound scans, houses, or pets... Please see my art website for contact details: www.RebeccaJelbert.co.uk. I have prints available for sale from www.Society6.com/RebeccaJelbert.
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