I’ve read many articles this last month about the iPad and what it’s going to do, what it’s not going to do and what it’s going to kill. But one thing I haven’t seen is any mention of its impact on picture books. And by picture book I mean any book where pictures are vital to the enjoyment of the book. Art books, cookery books, comics, graphic novels, glossy animal books, travel, craft books, gardening, photography etc. Books that come in that awkward size that never fits your bookshelf.
Has their time come for an electronic makeover?
Until recently eBook readers have either been unable to display colour pictures at all or unable to display anything bigger than a large thumbnail. Not a problem for the average novel where it’s far more important that the text be easy to read and strain-free on the eyes. But for coffee table books – it’s a killer. Who wants to pay money to look at greyscale pictures of vibrant colour paintings? Or page through a comic, one tiny frame at a time, on a mobile phone?
But with the iPad and all the other colour tablets about to appear, suddenly you have colour and a large screen. Not quite coffee table book size but close.
There are still some drawbacks. A picture heavy eBook is going to be far larger than a standard novel. Twenty, maybe a hundred times larger. But every year data storage devices get larger and cheaper and an 8-20Mb file is no longer considered that large. Even the smallest iPad has a 16Gb capacity and broadband will make transmission of the files faster and easier.
And it’s not as though the print versions are cheap to produce. Glossy paper, colour print, large page size.
It’s certainly got me thinking. So the last three weeks I’ve been working on a picture book – taking my Kittens’ Guide series of blog posts and rewriting them, making them into a single, themed book. The theme? A secret organisation of kittens brought together to save the world. The International Kittens of Mystery. Cute kitten pictures, funny kitten pictures and an even funnier story woven around them.
Will it sell? I don’t know. You could argue that its fate is tied to the iPad. Which is why I’ve looked into producing a PDF version for people who won’t have an iPad. But the file size is considerably larger – 22Mb as opposed to the 2Mb size of my first draft epub. I’m now thinking of producing an HTML version so that anyone with a browser could view the book. It won’t be as slick as the epub version but the pictures will be full size and in colour.
What do you think?
Would you read a coffee table book on an iPad or a PC? Or do you think digital displays have a long way to go before they match the quality and feel of the physical product?
Chris Dolley is an English author living in France with a frightening number of animals. His novel – Resonance (Baen) – can be downloaded for free here. More information about his other work can be found on his BVC bookshelf .
Coming soon: International Kittens of Mystery.