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Book apps represent one of the most remarkable creative outlets ever created for children’s writers. In this discussion with writeforkids’ resident app expert Karen Robertson, you’ll discover what a book app is, what kinds of things you can do inside an app and how to begin to develop an app of your own!







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Resources mentioned in this interview:





Video: “Book App Examples to Inspire”


How to Develop an App:

Karen’s App Creation & Promotion Resources



Book App Academy - use this

Book App Academy Online Course



How to Market a Book App


Authors Guide  Author’s Guide To Book Apps


Karen Robertson is the author of two award-winning storybook apps from her “Treasure Kai” series, and she specializes in teaching other writers how to publish their books as apps. She’s written a number of books and training programs on this topic and speaks internationally. Karen is the president and co-founder of the Book App Alliance, a new organization of industry leading authors creating interactive books for kids. She was inspired to create interactive, multi-sensory reading experiences for kids by her sons, who are dyslexic. You can learn more about her work at




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    1. Avatar
      John F. Wilhite
      February 24th

      Apps, good.  Ebooks, good.  Ebook reading devices, fair but not necessary.  You both mentioned twice that apps are better than ebooks, they can do more than ebooks.  This perception may be due to the limitations of ebook reading devices (Kindle, Nook, Apple Ipad, Sony Reader, etc.) and not the ebooks themselves.  Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble and the rest have done writers no favor by using only the bare minimum of ebook software potential to sell their devices.  Full-featured ebook creating software, with no coding required, has been around for about 15 years; it has not been utilized to its full extent because all the players want their own format–mobi, EPUB, HTML, CSS, etc.  Also, I imagine, ebook creating software, like DeskTop Author, among many others, has not soared because the format is not compatible with the proprietary devices  of Kindle, Nook, etc. so books created with it are stand-alone, like the apps you refer to, but without the benefit of a viable online marketplace.  Notice, for example, the on-line bookstores.  The order pages have icons for numerous formats–Nook, Kindle, Apple.  But none have an icon for HTML, app, or any other format.

      It's probably not appropriate to say apps can "do more" than ebooks (again, unless you mean ebook reader devices).  Apps are software; ebooks are software.  They'll both do the same, have the same features if they are programmed/written the same in their respective formats.

      I look forward to more discussion of this.  I'm very interested in both apps and ebooks (stand-alone).  I simply resent the big companies forcing schools (with limited budgets) and others to buy their devices when apps and ebooks can be read on tablets, notebooks, laptops, PCs, which the schools probably already have.


      John W.  


      • Avatar
        February 24th

        Thanks, John.  Those are excellent points and they're well taken.  Since you're clearly passioante on the subject, I invite you to write a guest post any time.  We're here to be a forum and a palce for open discussion.  Shoot me an email if you're interested.

    2. Avatar
      November 7th

      Totally agree John. eBooks and apps are different animals and it’s counter productive to say one can “do more” than another. The purpose of any story – no matter what media it uses is to immerse the reader in the author’s world. I’ve worked in the book app world for three years, and one of the biggest mistakes I see are apps that don’t enhance the story, or worse yet mix stories and “activities” in the same app and call it “interactive”.

      We need to be careful with interactivity. Does it enhance the story or does it replace the narrative? I can animate every single part of an illustration and make it do something when tapped, shaken, or put on a timer, but that distracts from the story. Instead of animating every toy on the toy shelf in the bedroom, it’s better to have the child sleeping in the bed snore when the word “snore” is tapped, or make the room go dark when the light switch is flipped. I want to enhance the experience, not provide distraction.

      If we are authors first, and app programmers second, we will let the story weave it’s magic with our words, and use the app technology to make the world we see in our mind come alive for the young reader in conjunction with those words.

      And if you think eReaders are hard to format with all the different resolutions and rules, just go to the app world and see the dozens of different screen sizes, ratios and resolutions you have to work with!

      But if you struggle your way through the technical details, and remain true to your audience it is incredibly rewarding. What do I mean by remaining true to your audience? If you’re writing a story – write an interactive story. Make it a good story. Make it a story you are proud of, one that you could put out there in eReader format, hard cover or any other “traditional” method.

      If you’re making an “activity” app, make it a good game or a group of games and don’t just slap it in the home page menu selections along with a weak story. If you’re doing a bedtime lullaby song app, don’t tack it on to the end of your book, make it a lullaby app.

      Parents and their kids are now the gatekeepers for books, no matter what format those books may take. Big name publishers are just as capable of putting out garbage apps (and boy have they got a lot of downright bad apps out there!) as an indie author. Parents and kids are getting pretty good at ferreting out the garbage no matter who puts it out there. Think about what you want to do, how you want your story to come alive. Anything you can think of can be done – anything. Some things are more difficult than others, some things may prove to not be a good idea. But they can all be accomplished. Quality writing and well planned, well executed interactivity equal a good app.

      To me, working out how to immerse the reader in the world I create, is incredibly exciting, and is why I create books for electronic readers, print formats and apps. It’s the most fun and rewarding work I could ever possibly do.

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