Please be so kind as to help get my self-publishing adventure off the ground.
June 6, 2012 10:51 PM   Subscribe

I want to make an interactive children's book app for iOS. I will be doing all the artwork and animation myself but don't know what would be a fair price to pay for a developer (coder?).

It will be about 20 pages long and somewhat minimalistic, with only a couple of hotspots per page, one playing a short voiceover and the other a short animation clip. No fancy physics or other interactivity, so it could probably be built just as a web page of flash site. The animation will be hand drawn stuff, taking up about half the page. I'd like to budget for a certain amount of followup, in case users are experiencing bugs. I'd like it to be available on all iOS devices and resolutions.

I'd expect a cover page, contents gallery view page, animated page turns and a shortcut button to the contents page. Ideally, it would be great to pay someone to create a template that I could use to create a family of books along the same format. It would be wonderful if the back page offered links to any of my other publications and had all the usual tweet, like and share buttons.

Please let me know if there's anything I've forgotten.

I've browsed around, seeing a few self-publishing outfits like Dragon Pencil but the user agreements made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Likewise, there are a couple of graphical interface book builders out there but they also don't seem to be very clear about what stake they own in the content you produce with their tool. Apple's iBooks Author doesn't seem useable because it can't play the animation without the playback buttons being visible. Hype seemed like a way around that, but it only seems to animate position and properties, rather than the sort of hand drawn 12fps stuff that I'd be doing.There are a few other tools like Corona but I think they'd be too hard to learn and I want to focus on the artwork. The Touchoo Creator seems like it would be perfect but again, I can't figure out what their end is.

So what it come down to is this, what level of expertise am I seeking, how much does that labour cost (as a flat rate), what's a reasonable time frame to complete this sort of job and how is payment typically structured?
posted by bonobothegreat to Media & Arts (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I'm an independent iOS developer. Hit me up in MeMail. Before making any kind of price or timeline estimates, I would need a few more details.
posted by chasing at 11:20 PM on June 6, 2012

This is not exactly what you are asking, but do take a look at Apple's iBooks Author. (You will be creating an e-book for the iBooks app, not an iOS app.)
posted by applesurf at 12:23 AM on June 7, 2012

iBooks Author might still work and is pretty easy to use. I made a couple of books for my baby daughter in it, giant picture books with embedded music.

If you've ever used InDesign, it's much much easier. There's a decent how-to book for free from O'Reilly ( that can get you started.

Some people used embedded videos of animations with a graphic mask over it to get something like the effect you mean. There are snippets of code floating around that can extend iBooks Author with embedded html.

If this is the only book you want to do, an external developer is smart. If you'd like to do several, you should give yourself a week to muck around with iBooks because then you'll be able to produce books on your own.
posted by viggorlijah at 1:59 AM on June 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Just to add to the 'you could do this yourself', I haven't used iBooks Author but Adobe's InDesign has a new digital publishing suite component that could work for your purposes. You can create hotspots, add animation either as HTML5 animation or as embedded video, and add audio. The one thing that doesn't meet your requirements is that the page turns aren't really 'animated', you just slide from one page to the other. I also am not 100% sure that it exports to iPhone.

If you look at something like Wired magazine for the iPad, this is what they use.
It exports as a standalone app, there is a fee you have to pay but it isn't substantial compared to hiring a developer, etc.
posted by matcha action at 3:44 AM on June 7, 2012

Don't do an app: too expensive to develop and the most you can get for them is about $.99. Everything you want to do can be achieved in a fixed-layout epub with read aloud. Most likely you'd optimize for iBooks, but could also port to other tablet-based eReading applications and Readium for the browser.

The freelancer you need for this is an ebook designer with experience in fixed layout, not an iOS developer. There's a new "marketplace" site, Bibliocrunch, that's supposed to be specifically geared for finding freelance ebook help, although I don't know how populated it is yet. The #eprdctn hashtag on Twitter is a good place to look. Lurk for a bit and you'll quickly see who's working in this area, or MeMail me and I'll give you some names.

If you want to do it yourself, definitely check out Liz Castro's guides. Some tools you might look into are Vook and CircularFlo, in addition to iBooks Author. Adobe's Digital Publishing Suite is crazy expensive and has a steep learning curve. Not a good fit for indie authors.
posted by libraryhead at 6:32 AM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thanks for all the great suggestions. If I could find the right tool, I'd definitely prefer to do the layout myself.

Before I go checking the different options, can I ask about my one major requirement for the embedded video? (which is what I suppose is what the animated component will likely be) I want it to play just by tapping a large hotspot that isn't disfigured by that triangular play button or the other playback controls. iBooks Author looks great and easy to learn and if there's a widget that'lll allow me to embed my hand drawn animation without controls, I'd be good to go.
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:08 AM on June 7, 2012

You can do self-playing animations in epub3. I don't know the details as I don't do any kids books, but it's definitely a CSS/JavaScript thing, not embedded video, so no play button if you don't want. If you don't mind being iOS only, iBooks Author has built-in support for this.
posted by libraryhead at 7:39 AM on June 7, 2012

Thanks libraryhead. I'm glad to know that epub3 can do this because I could only find forum posts saying it can't be done. I keep hitting road bumps with iBooks, such as the fact that animating widgets don't need controls but they only play full screen and then you need to tap to dimiss it. I'm hoping for a more boiler plate, tiny fingers-friendly interface. I'm imagining a layout similar to a Beatrix Potter book, where the image sits at the centre of the page. You tap on it and it plays 3 seconds of animation at 12fps (without going full screen).

I'll start working through the links everyone has posted.
posted by bonobothegreat at 11:50 AM on June 7, 2012

I've mucked around with InDesign today without any luck. The media window allows you to choose different settings for the video control visibility but none seem to have any effect on the final epub when it's viewed in iBooks.

If anybody knows a "for sure" way to imbed video into an ibook without the controller being visible, I'd love to know the specifics.

As far as HTML5 goes, it seems that you can only make a widget that points to the URL of a video. You can't include the video itself if you want it to import into iBooks Author. I can get exactly what I want running as a widget in dashboard but iBA refuses to have anything to do with it.

Just to clarify, when I'm talking about animation, I should probably just call it a three second video of hand drawn animation (not animation in the sense that there are any animating elements or effects).
posted by bonobothegreat at 2:02 PM on June 8, 2012

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