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Friday, 6 May 2011

At e is for book, Ruth Sanderson wrote about how she adapted her picture-book retelling of Cinderella to a digital format for PicPocket Books.

Sanderson’s daughter supplied the fairy godmother’s magic with animated sparkles, and PicPocket had the tech to add sound effects. But that still left a big gap, Sanderson thought—in particular, a gap between words and pictures, the two essential elements of a picture book. She explained:
In my other apps the narrator reads the story while the text is shown alone, then alternating with a picture, and I felt that these were more like audiobooks with occasional pictures than interactive apps. I wanted to have a picture shown on every page, but how to fit all those darn words?
Especially since, as she added, “A picture book double spread averages 11x17 inches. Shrinking the whole thing down would create text too small to read.”

Her solution owes something to how TV shows used to share picture books by panning over and/or isolating parts of the illustrations, or perhaps a variation on the “pan and scan” method that studios used to make wide-screen movies fit onto television screens. She decided to “crop each picture from the book in a number of ways so that the longer text would be spread out over multiple pages.”

Sanderson shows an example of how one double-page spread became three screens’ worth of images, and how she found space on each for text. She also pulled in some artwork originally used for the copyright/dedication page. End result: sixteen original images, most double-page spreads, became 36 pages in the app.

That points to one of the big advantages of the new digital formats for picture books: the screens are a lot smaller than a printed book, but there are no strict limits on how many there are.

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