Consider this eBook Officially AppSmashed

My 8 year old and I entered into a weekend adventure of digitalizing a historically relevant picture book.  When the opportunity developed I immediately knew it would be the gift that keeps on giving.  My 8 year old, is a self proclaimed artist and author.  Mark my words, this project will prove to be the first in a long line of creativity and making in my house.  This post will serve as a test spot and early adopter series for folks to give feedback on the experience they have with the book.

Quick backstory on the book:  Sam Saves the Mansion was written, edited by Rebecca Blessing and Mary Ann Miller.  Anita Fleming was the illustrator.  The really cool part is that I work with all three.  The book is a fictional children’s book with roots in learning the historical significance of the Kentucky Governor’s Mansion.

If you find this post, please comment on your experience.  Download and play with all three versions (if you can).   The permanent home will be on the Kentucky Department of Education website, prior to the public launch.

Download: (click/tap icon to download file)

  • iBooks-icon iBook version for iPad and Mac OS X only 52 MB (full interactivity, text features, narration, & more)  |  Also found here: iTunes U  for all other general and iOS devices.
  • ePub ePub version for iPhone, Android, and other mobile devices 43 MB(pictures, narration, no text interaction)
  • pdf-icon (1) PDF version 16 MB (limited interactivity) |  Also found here: Google Play  and Google Books for Andriod devices 36 MB

Now for the really good stuff… How’d she (we) pull it off?  We divvied  up the work, I did the easy stuff and she did the heavy lifting.  We started with the original artwork shared from the artist through OneDrive.  They were hand painted, then scanned digitally.  IMG_0126I downloaded the files – they were huge.  So we created an Automator app to decrease the resolution of all 35 pictures with one single drag and drop.  Automator always amazes me.  I get to feel like a real coder by saying the word “script.”  Next, we pulled the images into iPhoto and quickly enhanced each image.  Using iBook author we placed every page and digitally recreated the book exactly as it is in print.  Then we turned to GarageBand to start the narration.  We sat together and read and re-read every page.  We focused on awesome voice and inflection – until she was happy with … every page.  We tried doing all of the recording on an iPad using a mini-pin microphone and the Voice Memo app.  That turned out to be great practice, but most was unusable do to her scratching the mic on the pages of the book.  We did use some of the original recordings, but had to convert the Voice Memo audio into .mp3 using an iTunes process, then pull it into Audacity and run a filter to take out the background buzz.  …that was cool, but way too much work…  (we only used a few of the original recordings).   So, back to GarageBand.  We recorded every track all in one session using the Blue Snow Ball microphone.  GarageBand has a nice feature to only “share” or export one track at a time.  So we muted all but one at a time, and exported each one individually to iTunes.  The great move we made from the beginning was to whiteboard out and name each image with the exact page number of the printed book, and we performed the same steps with the audio.  The “Page5.png” image matched up with the “Page5.mp3” audio.

I took back over…

I placed each narrated audio track on the corresponding .iBook page using iBook author.  That part was actually extremely smooth and quick.  When all was completed we “Shared” and exported the iBook file.  We tested multiple times, edited, and re-edited, and had a pristine digital version of the eBook.  I made a duplicate so we could export a PDF.  In the duplicate iBook Author project file I stripped out the audio narration, removed the mention of a Narrator on the credits page, then shared (or exported) again.  But this time, in PDF format.  So we had a iPad version and a standard flat PDF version.  …but that wasn’t good enough, because she wanted a way to get the narration onto other devices such as Mommy’s iPhone or her cousin’s Android tablet.

…On to the ePub version…   I tried several different options (online converters, Pages, etc.) and none were any good for what we wanted from an ePub file perspective…  Finally I remembered a couple years ago playing around with a little app called: Book Creator App on iPad.  Looked it back up, and realized we could now add audio tracks, hyperlinks, and text.  I made another copy of the original iBook Author file. But this time, I not only stripped out the audio, but also all of the text – and exported as PDF one more time.  We now had a PDF version of the book with no words.

She took back over…

IMG_0266My daughter took back over.  Here’s how she completed the task.  She downloaded the PDF version of the book (sans the words) to the iPad.  She flipped through every page and took screen shots of each.  Those files automatically go to the camera roll on the iPad.  Then she launched the Book Creator App on the iPad and placed every page.  (After trial and error… this was key.  By following these steps we did not have to mess with image resizing and the color space dedicated for the text was already embedded or captured.  If we used the original artwork, the images would not have fit on the page dimensions, etc..)  Then went back to through each page using the Book Creator App and placed the audio file from an synced iTunes playlist.  Again, the naming convention of the files played a huge roll in me be able to walk away and just let her go to town.  We then had to go back through every page and copy/paste the text from the iBook.  That was a monotonous process of flipping back and forth between the apps and pasting.  Finally, we exported the book and directly uploaded the new ePub file into OneDrive while inside the app.  The really cool part was that she completed the task creating the entire ePub version on the iPad in about 1/2 the time it took me to complete the task using iBook author.  What’s even cooler is that her version is an open standard and will be way more accessible – for all purposes – it’s device agnostic.  My version can only be experienced on exactly one device (ok 2 devices if you count Mac OS X).

Project complete.  I think this AppSmash went well in the double digits.

2 thoughts on “Consider this eBook Officially AppSmashed

  1. Karen Coey

    How wonderful Neilsen .. you did a great job.. I love the story..It’s beautifully illustrated and so wonderfully narrated …you are so beautiful and talented keep up the great work! oh and dad did a great job tooooo.

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