Give-and-Take: The Limitations of Interactive eBooks

By: Katarina Pokrajac & Minahil Khawar

We take a step into the world of eBooks and we realize how we’ve truly put our foot in the future. An eBook is a digital version of a basic old-school book . It minimizes the cluster of pages and puts a million words onto one simple device. It also allows for flexibility with font size and layout – something my mother and her reading glasses will be thankful for! But how else can a digital book offer more than a printed one?

Add interactivity!

Interactive eBooks are a form of digital books that allow the user to be involved in the story in many ways, which can add value to the product. Something as simple as a cookbook can become much more fun and useful if features like videos are included in it. The publisher of the cookbook can set the book apart from others by adding follow-along video clips and GIFs – something you can’t have in a basic printed book. 

Check out the interactive children’s book that Katarina, one of our graphics designers, made!

However, interactivity has its limitations. Here are some issues that come along with making an interactive digital book:

  1. Slow Production Times: Adding interactivity to digital books is a slow process, as it is very time consuming and complex to construct. While a normal book would generally take a couple of days to print, a PDF eBook would take between 3 to 5 weeks, and an interactive eBook would take somewhere between 6 to 8 weeks! This could really slow down the publication process for a new book.
  2. Formatting Issues: Interactive eBooks are made in a fixed layout to make sure that elements aren’t rearranged with every device it is read on. But a fixed layout means that if you have multiple reading platforms, like iPads, MACs, PCs, or smartphones, then you would have to reformat the sizes of the ebook to fit every possible screen size.
  3. Accessibility: Certain interactive features could make the device seem complicated to people who are not comfortable with technology. Users will need to have a basic understanding of their electronic devices to be able to enjoy all the interactive elements. As well, it might not be possible for all devices to read all types of interactive eBook. For example, if you use Apple iBooks to create an interactive eBook, then it will only be able to be viewed on Apple products. PC and Android users wouldn’t be able to view and use the eBook, which would require the publisher to adapt the eBook into many formats (see Formatting Issues, above).

With these limitations, making interactive digital books becomes a give-and-take situation; you get a book with really cool features, but it takes much more time and effort. But interactive digital books are the results of some amazing technological innovations that happened over time. Even as we write this, technology is changing and improving. What kinds of digital books will we see in the future?

We invite all readers to attend our webinar on November 27th at 10:30 am, where we’ll be discussing new innovations and possibilities that will change what an interactive digital book can be. Register for the webinar below:

Have you experienced any problems while using an eBook? Let us know in the comments!

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