Saturday, June 25, 2011

Picture Book Apps: New Options for Content Creators

As part of the Digital Media track of the June 25th Mid-Year Workshop for the Florida SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Authors and Illustrators), I’ll be speaking about picture book apps. The other speakers will be editor, publisher, and author Emma Dryden of DrydenBooks, publishing veteran and agent Rubin Pfeffer (East West Literary Agency), animator Curtis Sponsler of AniMill (The Animation Mill), and moderator and author Joyce Sweeney. Below are the notes and links from my presentation.
Illustration was adapted from Look at My Book: How Kids can Write and Illustrate Terrific Books
A quick overview of terminology and the major ereader devices, ebookstores, and formats to discuss which are most suitable for novels vs. illustrated ebooks vs. picture book (PB) apps. Note: for a text-oriented book, convert it into the Kindle format (Amazon) and make sure the ebook has a professional-quality cover. Links to Kindle and other epublishing resources on the digital author blog E is for Book can be found here.

What is a picture book app? A list of the PB apps mentioned:

A comparison between a traditional print picture book versus a picture book app: for example, a PB app doesn’t usually have double-page spreads. The size of the iPad “page” is about 5 3/4" X 7 3/4" so it’s a smaller area to work with than the average print picture book.

Typical app actions include Show and Hide... how they might be used in the context of a story? For example, if the story called for flowers to bloom, the Appear action could be used to make that happen. Other actions include Rotate; Bounce; Assemble; Take apart; and Change name only a few.

Who and what can be interactive? In addition to characters, the flowers, furniture, rugs, buildings, hills, clouds, and even the words themselves can be part of the action. The above PB apps show a great deal of diversity in the amount and the nature of the interactivity.

Some great reasons to make a PB app are:
  • as a companion to a print book (related activities such as games)
  • to explore a niche market that traditional publishers aren’t interested in
  • to reissue an OP title
  • to test an idea for a book or series that may later have a print edition
  • to create something that would be impossible in any other form
More ideas are in my article on E is for Book.
The process of writing and illustrating a PB app is analogous to writing any picture book. The addition of Reader interactions, animations, audio, and other media add complexity and creative opportunities. The interactivity also needs to be designed. A discussion of the process of writing and illustrating a PB app.

What about the tech? Various partnerships with publishers, agents, and/or developers may be possible or the DIY app-maker can code their own or utilize book app-making tools. The following companies have early versions of non-coding DIY tools available or are in the process of creating them:

Each company has its own pricing structure, workflow, hardware requirements, and so on. Some are still in private beta so are not yet available. It is early days for DIY book app tools, so there are many issues still being worked out. The following may be helpful in evaluating a DIY book app tool:
  • What are the interactive features that can be incorporated into the app (such as Draggable objects the Reader can move; Narration; Animations; and so on)?
  • Check out the quality of the resulting app...try out an app made with the system to see how well it operates.
  • Hardware and software requirements.
  • Workflow- the system may be on your desktop, on your iPad, a plugin to Photoshop, or a web site. How does it require you to put together the images, audio files, animations, interactivity and so on.
  • Does it generate an accurate simulation so you can see how your app will operate?
  • Ease of most software, there will be a larger or smaller learning curve.
  • Look through any documentation (in my experience, not a strong point for most software developers). A given feature may be there, but can you figure out how to implement it?
  • How is your app sold... in your own App store account; under the company’s name; via in-app sales; on their web site; etc.
On Thursday, June 30th at 1 pm ET, there will be a free 1-hour webcast about digital book-making tools. It will be presented by author Pete Meyers; his last webcast was excellent so I’m looking forward to this one.

Another interesting type of digital book can be found on web sites such as A Story Before Bed. Adults and/or kids choose a title from the online store and using their own web cam, record themselves reading it. The video plays along with the book; check out the site to see how it works. Click here for an interview with the site’s founder.

E is for Book is a group blog of published children’s book authors writing about their adventures with digital books. There are 70+ articles currently posted, many consisting of first-person accounts of “going digital” with out-of-print as well as original titles.

If you Tweet, there’s a chat about PB apps every Sunday night at 9 PM ET under the tag #storyappchat. The transcript may also be read later in the week on the #storyappchat blog. There often are giveaways of new app titles. My Twitter name is @LoreenLeedy so feel free to send me a tweet.

Digital books offer authors and illustrators amazing new options to explore... I can hardly wait to see how things will evolve.


August 3, 2011
In the list of DIY app tool-makers above, I had originally included Push Pop Press, the developer of Al Gore’s ebook Our Choice. They had announced plans to make their interactive publishing system widely available. As of August 2nd, they have been acquired by Facebook. 

August 4, 2011
Added TouchyBooks to DIY list 

August 26, 2011
Added uTales to DIY list

Loreen Leedy
my web site

    Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
    Pin It button on image hover