Learn About eBooks

Children’s eBooks

Fixed-layout eBooks are a popular format for eBooks today, especially for childrens picture eBooks and for complex non-fiction like cookbooks and textbooks. Unlike standard reflowable eBook files, fixed layout eBooks can keep the same page layout and design as their print book counterparts, and can sometimes contain enhancements that make them more interesting and interactive. Fixed Layout eBooks are not PDFs, and they should never be created from flat images of every page. They are fully-functional HTML-based eBook files in every way; however, the specific styles and layouts used in these files are not re-flowable like standard eBook files.

In the information below, we will discuss the specifics of children’s picture eBooks. If you are interested in learning about non-fiction fixed layout eBooks, please see this page. Also, for more information on creating apps instead of actual eBooks, please see this page.

An Overview

Children’s eBooks are a popular topic right now in the publishing world, not only among publishers, but also among independent authors. While it is difficult to gain any traction in the children’s print book market, eBooks are a more level playing field. Many independent authors are writing and illustrating their own books and obtaining good sales rankings right alongside the major players

This interest in children’s eBooks has been driven in large part by the enhancements that are possible in many of the children’s eBook formats. Audio narration and animations can add a lot of flair to a children’s eBook and bring a better sale price.

The eBook marketplace changes very rapidly, so being up-to-date on everything is hard to do. Just so you know where things stand right now, let’s cover the basics of what is possible with the different children’s fixed layout formats.

Apple Fixed Layout

Apple developed a solution for children’s eBooks not long after the iPad was released, adding some functionality that allows a standard ePub2 file to be displayed in a fixed layout. A variant of this functionality was implemented as the fixed layout component in the newer ePub3 standard. Apple still supports the ePub2 fixed layout format, and most children’s eBooks for sale in the Apple iBookstore are in that format.

Here are some of the key features that are available in children’s eBooks in iBooks:

  • Full-page zoom: While other fixed layout formats do not allow the page to zoom in or out, iBooks allows the reader to zoom into the page to see image detail better or interact with smaller enhanced elements.
  • Single-page view: Zooming allows readers to view only one page at a time instead of the standard two page spread.
  • Orientation rotation: Readers are also able to rotate the orientation of the book to landscape or portrait. If you prefer, that feature can also be manually set in the code.
  • Embedded media: Fixed layout files are regularly enhanced with video and audio content. (More information)
  • Animations and interactivity: There are some really great options for animations and interactivity in iBooks. (More information)
  • Narration overlays: This integration between text and narration are currently almost completely limited to fixed layout files, and we recommend this functionality be added to all children’s eBooks if possible. iBooks also allows you to make the text change color in time with the narration. (More information)

A note about iBooks Author: In addition to the ePub2 and ePub3 fixed layout formats, Apple’s iBooks platform also supports another format called iBooks Author. Now, the naming of this can be confusing, so just remember that “iBooks” is the app on the iPad/iPhone that you use when reading eBooks, and “iBooks Author” is the Mac program you can use to create eBooks. iBooks Author is a tool for creating non-fiction fixed layout eBooks. It is not intended for children’s eBooks, and is not the best option for these files. We recommend sticking with ePub fixed layout files for all children’s eBooks in the Apple platform.

Kindle Fixed Layout

Amazon’s Kindle Format 8 has a fixed layout option that works very well for children’s eBooks.

While the Kindle children’s eBook format does not allow page zooming, that is not normally necessary in children’s eBooks. The format does have a region magnification option, which allows the reader to see the text at a larger font size in a pop-up box. That region magnification can also be used for other purposes, such as making image elements pop out of the background. Here are some screenshots of this kind of text magnification in action.

Unfortunately, the Amazon children’s eBook format does not currently have an audio narration option.

Barnes & Noble NOOK Kids

Barnes & Noble has its own proprietary eBook format for children’s eBooks. This format, called NOOK Kids, has similar functionality to the other eBook formats, but it is also different in many ways.

  • It includes an option for narration, but the text is not highlighted as the words are spoken.
  • It includes a region magnification option, but the text is part of the backgound image, so the magnification pop-up will include background elements, unlike the cleaner and more customizable pop-ups in the Kindle format.
  • It does not allow the inclusion of media files
  • When narration is included in one of these files, the NOOK reading system will allow the reader to record their own voice, giving children the option of having the book read by a parent, grandparent, etc.

At some point, Barnes & Noble may decide to move to the ePub3 format for their children’s eBooks, but until then this format is the only option for selling children’s eBooks in the NOOK store. Please note: These files cannot be sold through the NOOK Press self-publishing system. You will need to set up a publisher account with B&N and use their publisher upload options. Please contact us if you have any questions about that.

Kobo, Sony, and Google

These other retailers all have basic support for the ePub3 fixed layout format. However, device support is spotty, and there are many more limitations in these reading systems than there are in iBooks, or even in Amazon and B&N. While it is possible to create ePub3 children’s eBooks for these retailers, they represent a very small portion of the U.S. eBook market. It may be best to wait on spending time and money on developing files for them until they have better support for ePub3 and for the special features that are usually desired in children’s eBooks.


Children’s eBooks are able to handle many design and feature enhancements, and it is a good idea to think about these elements as you are making your eBook development plans:

  • Fonts that you used in your print book may or may not be able to be embedded into the eBook files. You will need to make sure you investigate the licensing of those fonts and, if necessary, choose alternate fonts for your eBook files. You can learn more about this on our eBook Fonts page.
  • Animations and interactivity are fun and interesting ways to enhance your children’s eBook. While device support is limited right now, these features make your eBooks pop even more since so few children’s eBooks have them. Whether you have one or two small animations or interactive elements, or something like this on every page, these elements engage the reader and keep them coming back to your book later for more fun. See our Enhanced eBooks page for more information.
  • Embedded media can be used in some cases to enhance the reader experience. Again, device support is currently limited, but if you already have video content that would add value to the eBook then this might be an option. See our Enhanced eBooks page for more information.
  • Distribution of children’s eBooks will require a publisher account with B&N, while Amazon and Apple allow children’s eBooks to be submitted through their normal channels. Kobo, Sony, and Google do not have a specific upload requirement, but we recommend contacting their technical team before uploading to ensure a smoother release. Some distributors do not have the ability to handle certain children’s eBook titles.  See our eBook Distributors page for more information.

Reading System Support

To more easily understand which reading systems support which features, please see the following chart:

  Apple Amazon B&N Kobo Google
Format ePub2/ePub3 KF8 NOOK Kids ePub2/ePub3 ePub2/ePub3
Narration Text Highlighting          
Region/Text Magnification          
Embedded Audio/Video    *      
Background Music          
Interactive Elements          

See How We Work

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Is it a good idea to put my Table of contents at the end of my eBook?

Some people do this to increase the size of the free samples automatically generated by the eBook retailers. However, the Kindle and other devices will re-set the “last read location” to the end of the book if you have your Table of Contents there, so we normally recommend against that practice.

What is the difference between HTML5 and XHTML5?

HTML5 is the latest version of the HTML standard used on the Web and in eBooks. XHTML5 is a stricter and cleaner version of HTML5, with rules from XML imposed on the code. For example, when a tag is opened it has to be closed, and all of the tags have to be properly nested. XHTML5 allows the code to be more easily interpreted by the display engine, and it keeps the code more consistent and easier to edit.

I have heard you can’t use color in eBooks. Is that correct?

No, that is absolutely incorrect. eBooks look great with color, and we highly recommend using color images and even colored text (within reason) in your eBook files. Some devices have grayscale eInk screens, so the color will not show up on those devices. However, the color will be in the file, and it will work on all of the color devices. We do recommend you test colored text on a device with an eInk screen and ensure that the text will not be too light to read.

Do you need to have a separate ISBN for each version of the eBook for different companies?

Technically, yes. See an extended answer on our ISBNs page.

What is KindleGen?

KindleGen is Amazon’s eBook creation/compiling program. It is used on the KDP website to auto-convert files uploaded into the Kindle store, and it is also integrated into the Kindle Previewer program to handle the conversion of non-Kindle files loaded in that program. You can download KindleGen and get access to other Kindle creation information at amazon.com/kindlepublishing.

What is a fixed layout eBook?

Fixed Layout eBooks are HTML-based eBook files that are usually designed to match the layout of a print book. The key difference between fixed layout files and reflowable files is that reflowable eBooks allow the reader to have more control over the reading experience, such as changing the font size, background color, etc. For more information, please see our Fixed Layout Children’s and Non-Fiction pages.

Does Amazon sell HTML files or only Kindle?

Amazon only sells eBooks in the Kindle format, but that format, just like ePub, is built using HTML and CSS files.

How is fixed layout different from a pdf of the book?

Fixed layout eBooks are built using HTML, so they have more functionality than PDF files. For example, the narration overlay functionality used in many children’s eBooks is not possible in PDF files. In addition, none of the eBook retailers sell PDFs, so fixed layout eBook files offer the best sales opportunities.

A university librarian told me they are not acquiring any Kindle books but only HTML5/ePub. Have you found that to be common with other libraries? I know our local public library does buy Kindle books.

Libraries acquire their eBooks from services like 3M and Overdrive. These services sometimes offer an option for Kindle checkouts, but typically they are limited to ePub files because of the more common use of the Adobe DRM.

Has the Kindle format gotten any more sophisticated in how it handles tables or floating images?

Yes, Amazon’s Kindle Format 8 has support for many great design features, including floating images, tables, color text, embedded fonts, and more.

How are page numbers handled in an eBook?

Print book page numbers are included in the HTML code of both the Kindle and ePub formats as anchors. They are also listed in the PageList section of the NCX or Navigation file. The PageList is used by some reading systems (like the Kindle and iBooks) to show the reader the print page numbers of the book as they read.

How are page headers created in eBook files?

The different reading systems control what shows up in the header of your eBook. Most will display the title of the book, and some will also display the author name. That text cannot currently be set to display the chapter name or other information about where the reader is currently reading in the text.

How do eBooks handle hyphenation of long words?

Some eBook reading systems will apply hyphenation to longer words to make the text better fit on the screen. This is typically controlled by the reading system, and will change depending on the font size and other settings the reader has set on their device.

What about protecting the file?

eBook file protection is called Digital Rights Management (DRM). Please see our DRM page for information on how it works and suggestions on how to use it.

Can I sell my eBooks on my own website?

Yes! You are certainly able to sell your eBooks on your own website. For more information, please see this page.