Sunday, June 12, 2011

How many pages should a picture book app have?

Picture book (PB) apps are not the same as standard picture books in many respects. (These issues are top of mind at the moment because in addition to working on my current picture book app project, I’m giving a presentation in a couple of weeks for the FL SCBWI about how to go about creating them.) Page count is one way PB apps are very different. As any aspiring author/illustrator who has done a teensy amount of research knows, a standard print picture book has 32 pages. Historically, that number arose from the way books are printed plus market expectations. To see a layout template, check out this storyboard tutorial from the classic picture book how-to book Writing With Pictures, by Uri Shulevitz. For authors, this translates into 14 or 15 double-page spreads that will have text on them.

Picture book apps don’t have a standard number of pages, nor are there double page spreads. Hmmm! In looking at a few apps, the number of pages (screens?) ranges from less than 10 to 30 and up. Some nonfiction PB apps may have even more. It’s really up to the app creator(s) to decide AND for app buyers to vote with their $$$.

It’s worth noting that the number of pages may not mean much, especially if an app has interactive features that keep readers busy for a longer time on each page. The trailer for A Present for Milo shows some of its more than 125 hidden animations:

From a storyline standpoint Milo has about 17–20 pages, depending on how you count them (one of those things you just have to see by exploring the app.) Milo is a good example of a PB app with charming artwork, a sophisticated design, and well implemented interactivity. It feels like a print picture book + More Fun Stuff. Note that it was conceived as a PB app and isn’t an adaptation. Reportedly there will soon be a print edition, which will make for an interesting comparison.

Another wild card with any electronic book is that because revisions are so much easier, creators may decide to add more pages at any time. Say you’ve published a PB app that people seem to like (they’re buying it!) so why not change/add something to freshen it up? Perhaps some additional interactivity or a coloring page or two. That would reward previous buyers and hopefully inspire them to show your app to their friends. I love app updates that add something new, don't you?

In short, the answer to the title question “how many pages should a PB app have?” is: it depends. Hopefully as you’re working on it, the PB app will tell you how many pages it needs. What do you think?

Loreen Leedy
my web site

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