farm_cvrIt’s been such a pleasure getting to work on several of author Louise Lintvelt’s delightful children’s books, including two recent titles: Operation Funny Farm and Name That Train.

As discussed in an earlier blog, the majority of children’s books we produce are fixed-layout formats, which are suited to titles with more complex layouts and image/graphic-heavy books.

The fixed-layout ePUB 3 format also offers children’s book authors like Louise the option of integrating read aloud narration on devices that support that feature. This approach was used for Operation Funny Farm.

Read aloud narration (sometimes called read along narration) offers readers the ability to listen to a narration of the book with each word highlighted as it is read out.

As shown in the screenshots below, a word changes colour when it’s spoken by the narrator, so it’s easy for children to follow along.

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Music or sound-effects can also be included to play while the book is being read and can be triggered by a page-turn or when the reader taps a specific element on the page.

The audio controls will depend on the platform being used to view the fixed-layout ePUB 3 with read aloud audio. In Apple’s iBooks (shown in the screenshot below), readers can start and stop the audio, and they can also control whether the pages are turned automatically or manually. Some devices or e-reading software will pause the audio between page turns, so we recommend including a short pause 1 to 2 seconds when recording the narration.

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To add the read-aloud feature you will need to provide a single sound file containing a complete narration of your book. Usually we receive files in MP3 or M4A formats, although we can work from most other audio formats too. One thing to keep in mind is that the audio file must be an accurate and complete narration of your book as every single word of the narration needs to be mapped to the relevant word within the book. There’s more advice on formatting your audio track here. You can also see videos of two read aloud titles we have produced on this page.

Devices which support read aloud ebooks include Apple’s iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch, and Kobo tablets, though not all devices which support fixed-layout ePUB 3 files will support the read-aloud feature. Audio is not currently supported in Amazon’s KF8 format or Barnes and Nobles’ PagePerfect format.

Nook Kids’ files don’t support the highlighting feature of read aloud narration, but we are able to add audio files to that format so young readers can still hear the narration. Readers are offered the choice to have the audio read automatically or select each clip and play it individually using the Nook’s pop-up play buttons (shown below).

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Another of Louise’s title, Name That Train, features trap and play audio rather than read aloud narration. The book’s rhyming verse and beautiful illustrations by DoThai Thanh are made all that more exciting for little train enthusiasts who can tap the Play buttons to hear the whistle of the train or the conductor calling ‘All aboard!’

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The touch and play option described in an earlier blog can be a great way to make an eBook more interactive and engaging for young readers, especially as the buttons can be linked to both narration and special sound effects.

Including information in the book’s front matter about the audio features as Louise has done in Name that Train is a great way to ensure children don’t miss any of the audio clips and sound effects included in the eBook.

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If you’re interested in seeing how both types of audio work, samples of Name That Train and Operation Funny Farm are available on iBooks.

train_cvrLouise is also running a special promo for Name That Train. The eBook is free until April 9th on many retailers’ sites, including Apple, Google Play Books, and Barnes and Noble.

You can learn more about Operation Funny Farm, Name That Train and Louise’s other titles on her website.

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