Thursday, 26 August 2010

Converting Children’s Picture Books to ebooks (epub format) for iTunes

I’m testing out a way to deliver Smallfish Books to iTunes. First, I have to decide if a book can best be represented on the iPhone or iPad in portrait or landscape format.

Then, re-work the book in InDesign – probably expanding the book into more pages because the font will have to be quite large, so I’m guessing there’ll be only one sentence per ebook “page” (to make it work on the iPhone).

Next, export from InDesign to PDF, and then use some software to convert the PDF into epub format. The one I’m going to try first is simply called “PDF to EPub” - I’ll post again once I’ve got the first book sorted out.


  1. hello Neil!
    thank you for the comment, im sorry i didnt reply sooner.

    this sounds cool, i hope everything will be just fine!!!


  2. Hi Mita - thanks, but the software was rubbish - I'll post again when I find something that works for the iPhone! Apologies if my last comment on the zebra unicorn was severe, but your work is of such a high standard that anything less than amazing is less than Mita.

  3. please, no worries :))
    in fact i wanna thank you for stopping by my blog, i know you're busy, i really appreciate you taking the time :)

    have a nice day!!

  4. Hi Neil -- I'm working through the process of converting a children's book from InDesign to epub format as well. This is our first time out, so lots of learning to do. What did you end up using as a solution? Did you use separate images and text or did you end up rendering the text into your images to get more control?



  5. Hi David - thanks for the comment - I've not found a good way to do it - exporting to epub for illustrated books doesn't really. work. Even if it did, I've come to the opinion that it'll be too boring. I've seen other children's e-books and now think that it's better to re-work a book as an app even if it's fairly minimal. Hope that helps, Neil.

  6. I'm going the app route also... starting with very minimal (using a comic book reader approach with zooming in to each picture on the page), followed later by a more interactive approach with audio, touchables, etc. Since my background is as a game designer/producer, I'm doing the coding myself.

    But it seemed that having an epub solution as well made sense.

    I'm also thinking that since every page has at least one image, and the images take up most of the space, maybe it makes sense to just do a single jpeg for each page and let that image fill the screen.

    Do you know of any other picture books using that technique?

  7. Yes - I bought this off iTunes to see what it's like - the main feature being the different languages. It has an animated front page, then the rest is static, with the words fading in a second or so after the illustration for each page. Let me know how you go developing an app - I might be interested in giving you some business!

  8. In the one you mention above, is the story read to you? Or is it just text?

    There are LOTS of children's book apps on iTunes... and the quality range is pretty great. I haven't seen the one you mentioned yet. Most of the ones I've downloaded so far are "lite" versions... maybe just the first page, or first 1/3 of the book.

    There's a wide range of quality of art, story, writing. And interactivity ranges from just having someone reading the book to you, to touchable hot spots that trigger sounds/words, to triggering extensive animations.

    The best of the genre of interactive books were probably those produced in the 90s by Brøderbund -- their Living Books. A good example of one of these is this one (this is the lite version):

    Production costs to do this level of animation is pretty high, though.

    There are others with animation just done by moving the objects on the screen (rather than hand-drawn animation). Did you see the Alice iPad app as an example of this? Again, this is the free version:

    I'm using the Corona SDK to develop them, which is cross platform compatible for iOS and Android.

    This is one of the better known iPad children's book apps that was created using Corona (again, lite version):

    Definitely download these free ones to see what people are doing here. I'd love to talk to you at some point after we get our first apps out. Initially, I'm working on titles my wife has written:

    But I'm also very interested in expanding to work with other authors! And happy to continue this conversation, either here, or via email (david at electriceggplant dot com)

    You can find out more about what I've done before at

    I'm new to app development, but loving it!

  9. You may want to give another chance to epub format. Now it is possible to add interactivity quite easily using EPUB3 and Javascript. Moreover, iBooks 1.2 now supports an extension to epub that allows publishers to create books with precise layout. I have been working on this for a while and, if you are interested, could work with one of your books and explore different possibilities. If you think this is something you want to explore, please send me an email with a sample of any book.
    Congratulations for your great works!

  10. Has anyone found a good way to convert a picture book to ePub format?

    I see the last post was in February, and much has happened since then...

    I have a photography/poetry book I want to sell in the iBookstore, so I need to convert it to ePub format. I DO NOT want flowable text. I instead want each page to be an image, as the design is heavily formatted to compliment the photos.

    I've tried programs like Calibre, but they all seem to use OCR recognition on my PDFs to ruin the formating and create flowable text. I don't think you can convert JPEGs either.

    Any suggestions?


  11. Justin, check out Book Creator for iPad... it's a $6.99 app that can do what you want. It's specifically for creating fixed-layout iBooks.

    We used it to do the layout for our own iBook.