What is a Book App?

June 2014

Given how quickly the landscape for children’s digital publishing has been changing, don’t think you’re alone if you’re not sure what a book app is! As I launched my first children’s book app in late 2013 – and have taken it into schools where is has been extremely well received – I thought a short post on what they are wouldn’t go amiss… 🙂

F F App front cover 300 x 250 - Updated

*5 Stars*- Click to buy in the App Store

Book Apps – read, listen, learn and have fun

The world of digital publishing is so fast-moving that if you’re a parent it’s quite possible that you haven’t heard of ‘book apps’ – and/or if you have, you might understandably be confused about how they differ from eBooks.

I was certainly completely in the green about book apps when I first set out to turn the print book of Ferdinand Fox’s Big Sleep into an eBook last year. (I have Kindle & iBooks versions of The Secret Lake and Eeek! The Runaway Alien so wanted to follow suit and provide a copy of my Ferdinand Fox picture book that could be downloaded to an eReader.)

That all changed  when a friend suggested I turn it into an children’s book app instead – because I’d be able to make it more interactive and educational. I am so pleased that I followed up on her suggestion!

Scroll down to see the interactive and educational  features of Ferdinand Fox’s Big Sleep book app in action, but first here’s a summary of the difference between eBooks and Book Apps.

eBooks and Book Apps – what’s the difference?


eBooks are digital books that tend to be read in a linear fashion and can include limited interaction, such as audio or (in the case of enhanced eBooks) video, word highlighting or automated animation – depending on the device being used. You read them either on dedicated eReader devices available from the online bookstore where you bought them (Kindle or the Nook, Sony, Kobo etc range of eReaders) or using eReading apps, which are produced by all of the eBook retailers and work across their own and their competitors’ mobile, tablet or desktop devices. The exception is Apple, which doesn’t have a dedicated eReader and doesn’t share outside its devices – instead you use their iBooks app to read books from their iBookStore on your iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch or iBooks software to read on your Mac.

Book Apps

A Book App is in essence a software program coded to run like a book. Book apps generally have much more interaction than eBooks. So whilst both might include page turning and (with some eBooks) audio, word highlighting and limited animation, Book Apps can also include touch-activated animation, drag and drop, touch-activated sound effects, reader recording, photo taking, games, puzzles and much more. Some are also designed to be read in a non-linear fashion.

Some book apps are designed to run on both Apple and Android tablets and mobiles and so are available in both the Apple’s iBooks Store and the Google Play store. However most kids’ book apps are found on Apple’s App Store. In turn, some of these Apple apps run on both iPhone and iPad, while others work on just one or the other. (Ferdinand Fox’s Big Sleep runs on iPad only.)

Interactive features in Ferdinand Fox’s Book App

(I narrate the story – or you can choose to read the story to your child – and I’ve deliberately designed the layout to follow the look and feel of the print book.)

The app opens with a page where you can choose to take a photo of your child and help them type in their name for the ‘This book belongs to….’ page. It’s an optional feature for your personal use – and you can change it as often as you like :-).

Throughout the story there are simple ‘word bubbles’ that appear on touch of key images – and are accompanied by a voiceover (my voice) that says the word aloud.  The word bubbles then slowly fade away again, allowing the child to press again if they wish and (without realising!) consolidate their learning. Here are some examples…

bubble_word_fox bubble_word_sheep


There are also simple touch-activated animations combined with sound on some of the pages – such as a sheep spinning and ‘baa’ing’ on touch, or a jelly pudding wobbling and making a gurgling sound.  You can see some of these and the word bubbles in action in the first few pages of the YouTube clip below. The animation features are designed to add fun elements to the story but without being so distracting as to make the child lose the thread of the story.  And there are just enough to make the child want to return to the story and hear it agan (and so engage in the learning activities again).

Finally, there’s also a fun ‘drag and drop’ word/picture matching game that consolidates learning using the word bubbles and images seen in the story. See it in action here:

What age group is all this interactive learning aimed at?

The beauty of the design is that it can encourage learning at the level to suit the child, as follows:

  • For early readers seeing and hearing the words supports both reading and spelling.
  • For pre-reading age children the shape of the words will start to become familiar.
  • For non readers (much younger ones) the learning opportunity occurs as they start to associate the image they touched with the word they hear – just as would be the case when exploring a picture book in print through pointing and discussion with a grown-up who would be doing this with them.

I would not have been able to include these features in an eBook – and the great thing about them is that you can either explore them with your children (in the same way as sharing a print picture book) or let your children explore them alone.

Where to get Ferdinand Fox’s Big Sleep Book App

Search for ‘Ferdinand Fox’s Big Sleep’ in the App Store on your iPad (or from your desktop to view it in iTunes).  Or click on the link below – for less than the price of a coffee you and your children won’t be disappointed 🙂  What’s more, Ferdinand Fox’s Big Sleep is part of the Moms With Apps program, which means it doesn’t contain any unwelcome surprises, such as ads, personal data collection or in-app purchases.

F F App front cover 300 x 250 - Updated

Click to download to your iPad or iPad mini

Happy Book Apping!


2 Responses to What is a Book App?

  1. Thanks for this info Karen, some great tips here, I’m a fellow UK author and hoping to turn my latest children’s book into an app, this has been a big help! Thanks again 🙂

Leave a Reply to kareninglis Cancel reply