The Book Machine recently featured a post by Ken Jones, explaining his inspired use of e-book technology to create an animated, interactive children’s storybook. Ken, who’s also running the Understanding eBooks event in London on April 25, worked with UK design and animation studio Tapocketa to develop their magnificent hand-crafted eBook, Galdo’s Gift.

An eBook, Not An App

Galdo's Gift | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's book

Image: Tapocketa

What’s unusual about Galdo’s Gift is that it’s NOT an app, even though it is available on Apple Store. This is because of their belief that an app would entail higher production costs, while books as apps really need to be offered for free to succeed–and even then are lost in a world of games.

Instead, they used the fixed-layout EPUB3 standard, which builds on the modern open standards of the web (HTML5, CSS3 and JS). The word ebook conjures up a dated image of a gray page full of text, so Tapocketa like to refer to Galdo’s Gift as a ‘Boovie’: not a book, not a movie, but a Boovie – a book in motion.

As with all technology, there were some restrictions that they had to incorporate. For example, early tests on the iPad showed that only one autoplaying and looping video was supported per two page spread. This dictated the format choice of one large animated image on each left-hand page, with the narrated story being placed on the right.

Each of the twenty-eight main spreads of the sixty-three-page book was to feature a sumptuous handmade animation. Each of them is beautifully and humorously illustrated and seamlessly loops every four seconds.

Tapocketa began to digitize their hand-drawn, hand-animated characters and then combine them with similarly created background scenes. They used Blender for modeling (constructing the skeleton ready for animation), tracking (the motion of the video taken as Eleanor moved the paper puppets), lighting, and rendering.

With the story proofread and finalized, veteran UK actor Brian Murphy was chosen as the somewhat irreverent narrator ‘King Galdo’ and suitable subtle sound effects were added.

Text and page layouts were designed and laid out in Adobe InDesign. As well as the main story, over 250 word definitions were added. Each was to be shown if tapped by the reader and each had a reveal and hide animation applied using in InDesign animations. Finally, every word of the story was to be highlighted in time with the narration using EPUB3 read-aloud ‘media overlays.’

An ‘ambient soundtrack’ is a neat feature available in iBooks which is actually outside of the EPUB standard. They used this to provide an uninterrupted musical background which pleasantly plays under the narration and other sound effects and continues as the reader moves between pages.

The End Result

Once finished, the entire EPUB includes 63 fully illustrated pages, 29 videos, 32 character animations, and over 7 minutes of audio and weighs in at 75MB. Here’s a sample of the end result. Was it worth all that amazing work that went into it? You be the judge! You can buy Galdo’s Gift from iTunes–and many thanks to Marina Gioti for the tip!