Wednesday, May 4, 2011


After my initial  post about how difficult is is to make picture books with long texts into apps for small screens, I decided to challenge myself and try to reformat one of my books to work well in this medium.  I chose Cinderella, as I could see many opportunities for the interactive elements required for an app. 

 PicPocket Books was interested in producing it,  and I hired my programmer/animator daughter to create animated sparkles on the pages where there is "fairy dust." PicPocket planned to add lots of nice sound effects that you discover by tapping the pictures. The challenge still lay in the length of text. A picture book double spread averages 11x17 inches. Shrinking the whole thing down would create text too small to read. 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??

My solution was to crop each picture from the book in a number of ways so that the longer text would be spread out over multiple pages. I decided that a vertical format would allow more room for text. Above is a double-spread from the original picture book, and below are the three scenes I created from it for the app.
This is the right hand side of the page reversed. I tried to leave close to half of each picture for the text to overprint.

In this case I cropped in and screened back the bottom of her dress for the text to overprint.

And here the text will be white against the dark grass.

 Here is an actual screen shot from the iPad app.  (If you tap the castle in the app you hear a waltz, the fairy dust sparkles around the coach, and I think the horses clip-clop and neigh. ) This was the original copyright/dedication page which I was able to incorporate into the app. There were 15 double-page illustrations and one single page for the picture book. The app has 36 pages. It did require some creativity to make this work, and overall I feel it is a nice package. The app has received some very good reviews. Whew. Just a few folks said it was slow to load, and PicPocket is looking into that. 
I spent around 5 days reformatting the pictures, and I feel it was worth the experiment. My hope is that even though it does not have as many bells and whistles as heavily interactive apps, it will hopefully still do well.  The nice thing about digital media is that an app or an ebook will probably be available for many more years than the book in print. Cinderella is currently out of print as a picture book, so this app has brought it back to life - and it sparkles!

Ruth Sanderson


  1. Thanks for sharing your process, Ruth. It definitely is a challenge to reformat art that was intended for a much larger page.

    One thing I that surprised me with your Cinderella is how much more of the lovely details are visible on the iPad vs. my desktop monitor (which is a good one.) The iPad has a higher resolution 132 ppi vs. a typical monitor's 72-100 ppi, so I guess that's the reason.

    The back-lighting inherent in a digital device can give artwork an effect similar to stained glass... it's very different than a printed page. Anyway, kudos to you!

  2. Ruth, I have this app and I really liked the way it turned out. The animated sparkles are a subtle touch and appropriate to the story. Good balance of text vs. illustrations. Nicely done!

  3. Your work is really lovely. Nice job.

  4. It looks BEAUTIFUL. I'm in awe. Congratulations!

  5. Hi Ruth,

    I read with interest your process in switching over your Cinderella book into an ebook. You point out many of the same problems I have come up against. The too small text for the small screens etc. I'm thinking of reformatting my picture book to an ebook as well, and using InDesign. Do you know if I can add interactivity with InDesign CS5?

    I'm also a 'Flash' animator and was hoping to add interactivity to my story. I was wondering what program your daughter used to add sparkles?

    thank you for any help or advice you can offer.

  6. Cinderella is not an ebook, it is an app. My daughter created sparkles in an animation program and sent them to PicPocket Books, who created the app. I am not sure what software program they use. I don't believe you can use InDesign to create picture books as either apps or ebooks because you need a "fixed format" so the text does not reflow. My daughter used HTML to turn one of my books, THE ENCHANTED WOOD, into an epub ebook. We are waiting to hear from Apple whether it will be accepted.

  7. Nan, you can use InDesign for EPUB ebooks (such as iBooks) but my understanding is that you have to do some hand-tweaking of the code after InDesign outputs it. A guide to EPUB and a mini-guide to "fixed layout" for iBooks is available from Liz Castro, see the "ePublishing" tab above for a link.

  8. This is really beautiful.

    I like the creative part of it but the technical stuff is beyond me. I've been working with and they've really helped me out quite a bit.