Can a book exist without text? Can you be a reader without anything to ‘read’?

| May 3, 2012 | 2 Comments
Is every story a book or does it need a text storyline?

Can you have readers if you don't 'write' a story for them to read?

I have had several encounters lately that have made me scratch my head and wonder if my opinion on the whole ebook transition is just a bit too narrow? Up until now, I have been pretty flexible about my definition of a ‘book’ and even defended the right for digital books to be simply considered ‘books’ pure and simple.

BUT … I do have a couple criteria for a book, even in digital. Do you have an absolute minimum that a ‘book’ must provide in order to be considered a ‘book’? Of course, I thought my criteria were pretty obvious, but like most things, they appear to be a matter of opinion. But since this is my take on the ebook and this is my blog … I have 2 very simple criteria that any book app or ebook should meet before being considered a book in my eyes:

1. It must have text! This seems so obvious to me, but I cannot tell you how many app developers have talked to me ad nauseum about their ‘readers’ when they have absolutely no text in their app for ‘reading’ at all. If there is no text, it is still a story, surely … maybe even a great story. BUT IT ISN’T A BOOK IF YOU CAN’T READ IT! There is one exception to this rule (like all good rules) … wordless picture books don’t need text … however they should also NOT have a narrated story … otherwise they are no longer wordless, imho.

2. Page Turning is essential! For ‘readers’ to fully engage with a text story, they need to control the pacing (autoplay is great, but should be an option not the only way to play an app). Whether done with swiping, arrows or some other manual page turn option is immaterial; what matters is that readers can control the story, re-read or even go back a page. I didn’t realize how powerful the act of controlling the turning of a page was, until I wrote this post –

3. And while were at it, why not add: A Page Guide (for easier navigation), Page Numbers and simple settings to control sound and narration options. And if there are interactive and animated elements with your storybook, consider hints and a way to turn off the ‘bells & whistles’ for bedtime reading. Oh, and try leaving out links … pretty much anything that leaves the app unexpectedly. But maybe I’m asking for too much now?

Are there other features in digital you consider ‘essential’ for book status? Clearly this is one debate this is still open …

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Category: 100+ Reviews ... What I've Learned So Far, All About Apps

About the Author ()

Carisa Kluver is the the editor of, an iPad children's book review site. She has a BA in Anthropology from UC Berkeley and an MSW from the University of Washington. Before starting this project, she was a school counselor, health educator and researcher in child & maternal health.