Fixed-layout eBooks are a popular format for eBooks today, especially for children’s picture eBooks and for complex non-fiction like cookbooks and textbooks. Unlike standard reflowable eBook files, fixed layout eBooks can keep the same page layout and design as their print book counterparts, and can sometimes contain enhancements that make them more interesting and interactive. Fixed Layout eBooks are not PDFs, and they should never be created from flat images of every page. They are fully-functional HTML-based eBook files in every way; however, the specific styles and layouts used in these files are not re-flowable like standard eBook files.
In the information below, we will discuss the specifics of children’s picture eBooks. If you are interested in learning about non-fiction fixed layout eBooks, please see this page. Also, for more information on creating apps instead of actual eBooks, please see this page.
Children’s eBooks are a popular topic right now in the publishing world, not only among publishers, but also among independent authors. While it is difficult to gain any traction in the children’s print book market, eBooks are a more level playing field. Many independent authors are writing and illustrating their own books and obtaining good sales rankings right alongside the major players
This interest in children’s eBooks has been driven in large part by the enhancements that are possible in many of the children’s eBook formats. Audio narration and animations can add a lot of flair to a children’s eBook and bring a better sale price.
The eBook marketplace changes very rapidly, so being up-to-date on everything is hard to do. Just so you know where things stand right now, let’s cover the basics of what is possible with the different children’s fixed layout formats.
Apple developed a solution for children’s eBooks not long after the iPad was released, adding some functionality that allows a standard ePub2 file to be displayed in a fixed layout. A variant of this functionality was implemented as the fixed layout component in the newer ePub3 standard. Apple still supports the ePub2 fixed layout format, and most children’s eBooks for sale in the Apple iBookstore are in that format.
Here are some of the key features that are available in children’s eBooks in iBooks:
A note about iBooks Author: In addition to the ePub2 and ePub3 fixed layout formats, Apple’s iBooks platform also supports another format called iBooks Author. Now, the naming of this can be confusing, so just remember that “iBooks” is the app on the iPad/iPhone that you use when reading eBooks, and “iBooks Author” is the Mac program you can use to create eBooks. iBooks Author is a tool for creating non-fiction fixed layout eBooks. It is not intended for children’s eBooks, and is not the best option for these files. We recommend sticking with ePub fixed layout files for all children’s eBooks in the Apple platform.
Amazon’s Kindle Format 8 has a fixed layout option that works very well for children’s eBooks.
While the Kindle children’s eBook format does not allow page zooming, that is not normally necessary in children’s eBooks. The format does have a region magnification option, which allows the reader to see the text at a larger font size in a pop-up box. That region magnification can also be used for other purposes, such as making image elements pop out of the background. Here are some screenshots of this kind of text magnification in action.
Unfortunately, the Amazon children’s eBook format does not currently have an audio narration option.
Barnes & Noble has its own proprietary eBook format for children’s eBooks. This format, called NOOK Kids, has similar functionality to the other eBook formats, but it is also different in many ways.
At some point, Barnes & Noble may decide to move to the ePub3 format for their children’s eBooks, but until then this format is the only option for selling children’s eBooks in the NOOK store. Please note: These files cannot be sold through the NOOK Press self-publishing system. You will need to set up a publisher account with B&N and use their publisher upload options. Please contact us if you have any questions about that.
These other retailers all have basic support for the ePub3 fixed layout format. However, device support is spotty, and there are many more limitations in these reading systems than there are in iBooks, or even in Amazon and B&N. While it is possible to create ePub3 children’s eBooks for these retailers, they represent a very small portion of the U.S. eBook market. It may be best to wait on spending time and money on developing files for them until they have better support for ePub3 and for the special features that are usually desired in children’s eBooks.
Children’s eBooks are able to handle many design and feature enhancements, and it is a good idea to think about these elements as you are making your eBook development plans:
To more easily understand which reading systems support which features, please see the following chart:
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