Children's Books and Book Apps
New Original Content
Now we are beginning to see children's book apps based on new original stories written by a new type of children's book author and illustrated by a new type of illustrator. This article doesn't attempt to answer the question of whether the author and illustrator should change how they write stories and create artwork to accommodate the new technology. It assumes that you have already made that decision and you are reading this because you need to know how and where to start.
Writing and illustrating for print has been a solid, traditional method to publish children's books. However, what we have learned over the last few years is that just digitizing print content for the mobile device isn't enough to create the next great children's book app. In fact, the definition of an app has become more standardized and in order for a book app to be accepted into the App store, it must contain a certain amount of animation and interactivity. Also, the audience for these new book apps, our children, have embraced this technology so easily that the children's book app no longer can be a book of static pages.
Authors writing for this new publishing venue need to consider how their storyline can be enhanced with the addition of animation and interactivity. How will these authors change their stories to take advantage of this new technology? Will they create a different type of character knowing that this character will be animated? Will the "scene" for the story change because the app can display animated backgrounds such as moving cars or falling snow? What type of surprises will be added to the storyline because they can be visualized by animations and triggered by a touch from the reader?
Also, illustrators will need to consider how their illustrations will be animated. Instead of creating one graphic containing a static character that never moves until the reader turns to the next page, now the characters can become actors on their own stage, the digital page, enhancing the child's reading experience.
In order for these characters to move, the illustrator will need to create images using digital layers, placing each moving part of the character on a separate layer. For example, the upper/lower arms, upper/lower legs, feet, hands, neck, head, pelvis and torso need to be moveable when the character walks. Therefore, the illustrator will need to draw each part as a separate design element. Another example is the character's face changing to show expression and speech. The number of parts needed to create any realistic animation will determine how the illustrator will draw the graphics.
For many years, it has been obvious that the storyline is just as important as the artwork and requires a good collaboration between author and artist. Now, with the new technology, we have additional factors for the success of a book app. The author and illustrator will need to collaborate with the animator and the app developer. That's not to say that the author and illustrator has to become an expert in the new technology. But, it will be necessary to understand the basics of animation and interactive components in order to collaborate.
Where do you start? A good place to start is to take another look at the children's book apps that you already have on your mobile device. But this time, concentrate on the animation and interactivity. Ask yourself what is the purpose of the animations and interactivity in the app? How does they enhance and progress the story? How does they enhance the child's reading experience?
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