August 23, 2014

Challenges with Children’s eBooks

A number of authors have asked us if we can produce children’s books for the eBook market. The answer to that is yes we can but there are a few things would be authors need to know.

First of all, what is considered to be a children’s book? A children’s book usually consists of pages of colorful illustrations with text. The text will often follow the contour of the illustration and may even overlap the illustration on occasion. Because of this relationship of the text to the illustrations, a children’s book is not a good candidate for a normal ePub eBook. This is because in an ePub, the text flows and changes position as the reader changes the font or font size. This means that the text can’t follow the contours of an illustration and can’t overlap any artwork.

What an author wants with a children’s book is something that will look a lot like the printed version of their book. This can be done by creating a “Fixed Layout.” With this type of ePub, the designer has complete control over the positioning of both the illustrations and the text. Not only that, but with a “Fixed Layout” the text remains live and can be selected, searched and even enlarged and still remain sharp and readable. And you can have two page spreads when viewing on an iPad in the landscape mode.

Now that’s the rub concerning “Fixed layout” ePubs. They currently are designed to work on Apple IOS devices. They can be tweaked, however, to work on other devices but that means creating an entirely separate file. “Fixed Layout” ePubs are also more difficult to create since it involves creating a file for each individual page. On a regular ePub, I need concern myself with creating a file for each chapter.

There are some other advantages to “Fixed Layout” ePubs.  They can be set to have background audio play when a book is being read or you can even create the book so that text can be read aloud when selected.

One has to remember that an eBook edition of a children’s book won’t always look like the printed edition. A eBook is a totally different edition, requires its own specialized and professional layout & design, and also requires its own edition-specific ISBN.

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Ed Matte

Having majored in Graphic Arts at RIT in the late sixties, Ed Matte has been involved in printing for nearly forty years. Working with top ad agencies, his experience as a high end scanner operator and prepress technician has spanned the commercial printing, book printing, packaging, corrugated and large format printing industries. As Director of the Prepress and Professional special interest group for the Boston Computer Society, he has taught a prepress course for designers at Mass Art and held numerous seminars on solving print related issues at both Montserrat College of Art and MIT. Always looking to future technological advances, he is currently involved with Self Publishing and the intricacies of Ebook conversion. With his experience in scanning and color, he also currently specializes in photo restoration and repair. E-mail Ed at

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  1. Thanks for some clarification. Photo books and Children’s books seem to be a different genre of self publishing books. And a fixed layout ebook is what seems to be the accepted platform.

    A great resource for those intrepid, and graphically inclined is They offer great DIY courses specifically geared to this. They also have an iBook Author course that covers all the interactiveness a picture book could ever want, including sound, animation, video, links etc…

    Would love to hear your suggestions on “how to” create a children’s book into an ebook format, or offer up some resources of who can accomodate this need. Does Self Publishing offer this option?

  2. I think that ipads are the only format for children’s books at the moment. Kindle fire is tiny and kindle is a mess for what I would call picture books.

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