Production credits: HarperCollins Childrens Books
Launch date: October 2012
Earlier this month, HarperCollins released an animated ebook version of Judith Kerr’s children’s classic, The Tiger Who Came to Tea. For this project the production team decided to work with iBooks Author – Apple’s free application built specifically for the creation of multi-touch books for the iPad. With publishers put off digital experimentation because of high production costs, we wanted to know if this was a more cost-effective route for publishers and what, if any, were the creative limitations. Tom Conway, Digital Publishing Manager at HarperCollins Children’s Books, shares his experience.
There are creative limitations using iBooks Author. It’s a tool designed primarily with reference books in mind – with templates, widgets and features that could present a challenge to the picturebook publisher. The Contents page, for example, automatically indexes pages as you would in a text book 1.1, 1.2, etc, and you cannot currently embed custom fonts. Luckily, one of the limited range of system fonts is very close to that used in the original design of The Tiger who Came to Tea.
For this first foray into iBooks Author, we kept things simple. No games and no interactivity that moved away from telling the story. The Tiger Who Came to Tea is a perfect example of the picturebook form with each stage of the story told figuratively through simple, expressive illustrations, perfectly matched by the text on each spread. A young child can follow precisely what’s happening even without text.
With this observation as our starting point, the wizards at Bold Creative transformed each illustration into a short animation, composing a musical score to augment each scene. After experimentation, we decided that there should be one ‘touch’ per screen. Users can read the text and, with one touch, hear the story read to them and watch the images come to life. In testing, any more than a one touch point diverted children’s attention away from the narrative. Users also have the option to choose to view the entire story as an uninterrupted, narrated animation without pages.
The white background and discreet illustrations of the original layout of The Tiger Who Came to Tea lent itself beautifully to our simple approach of square-boxed animations side-by-side with text. For more complex picture book layouts with full bleed illustrations and typography, iBooks Author in its current form will present a development challenge – one we’re grappling with at present.
The obvious commercial restriction with an iBooks Author project is that it’s only available via iBooks – currently a small proportion of the digital readership. We are committed, however, to innovating in ebooks across all platforms.
The iBook was significantly cheaper and easier to produce than an app, and arguably consumers would expect to find a picturebook reading experience in the Children’s section of the iBook store, rather than amongst the thousands of games, utility and multimedia products in the App store. We’ve also benefitted from the fact that Apple has rewarded our innovative use of iBooks Author by promoting it on the iBooks homepage.
HAS IT BEEN A ROOOOOARING SUCCESS? We’ve succeeded in creating a beautiful new multimedia version of The Tiger Who Came to Tea at far less financial risk than an app, which we’re able to sell at a price point that reflects the value of the content. We’re already working on our next iBooks Author picturebook, as well as some more elaborate iBA projects using custom HTML widgets to add new multitouch and display features.
iBooks Author is just one format on one platform, though. We’re working on innovation across all platforms and formats. Just wait and see.
Have a look at this video trailer of the project.
*** update*** Yesterday Apple announced the launch of the iPad Mini (at a lower price point) and iBooks Author 3 – great news for products like Tiger. This news signals a renewed focus on the iBookstore and will likely result in a fresh wave of consumers using their iPads for reading ebooks…