Tag Archives: kindle fire

From Kwik to Print

Since 2011, I’ve written, illustrated, and developed two children’s book apps and I’m currently working on my third. I’ve also recently illustrated and developed a book app for Huggable Melodies. Thanks to Kwik, creating the apps was very easy and it allowed me to focus on drawing instead of coding.

I drew the artwork in Flash, and then using Photoshop and the Kwik plugin, I was quickly able to covert the artwork into apps for the iPad and Kindle Fire tablets. However, since my daughter is only 16 months old, I wondered if iPads would even still be around in a few years when she could really comprehend the stories I had written for her. This made me want to consider self-published print versions.

The first company I tried out was Bookemon. It allowed me to upload artwork in landscape dimensions in full color and order on an as-needed basis. The only qualms I have with Bookemon is if you only want one copy, it’s a minimum of $15 shipped, which is kind of pricey for a small book. Also, if you allow the general public to order your book from Bookemon, they can read the entire book without buying it and Bookemon takes a royalty fee. I’m considering trying CreateSpace or Lulu for my next book and I’ll post about the process when I decide.

On the technical side, converting a book app to print-ready artwork was fairly easy and just took a little knowledge of resolution. Most digital artwork is 72dpi and printed work is 300dpi or higher. The book on Bookemon is 7.75″x5.75″, so I created a new document in Photoshop at that size with a resolution of 300dpi. Then I changed the image size resolution to 72dpi and got the new dimensions. I changed the stage size to those new dimensions of my Flash file and scaled down the artwork page by page. Since Flash creates vector artwork, there was no loss in quality. I exported each page as a .png file at 300dpi and uploaded them to Bookemon.

A few days later the print books had arrived and the line quality looks great.

 

Because of the vector artwork and high-resolution exporting, the artwork is crisp and colors are vivid. It’s nice to have an interactive digital version as well as a traditional print version of the books. For my next book, Maddie Bear’s Birthday, I may try to implement an in-app purchase in the app version that allows you to order a print version as well. First, I have to finish drawing the book and then decide on a publisher.

Have any questions about going from digital to print? Leave a comment.

Picked-On Poindexter

For the past few months, I have been working with Huggable Melodies to create a storybook app to go along with their stuffed plush animal line. Today, Apple finally approved the iPad version and I’m happy to announce that you can download it for both the iPad and Kindle Fire!

It’s on a special introductory sale price of $.99 USD, so don’t hesitate to scoop it up before it goes up to regular price. It’s already featured in Kwik’s Showcase which you can check out here.

Creating “Floating Fun”: Behind the Scenes

Now that my second children’s eBook app “Floating Fun” has been released for the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7, Amazon Kindle Fire, and Apple iPad, I will discuss some behind the scenes information.

Creating the second installment of the Colin Turtle book series was much easier than creating the first book because I already knew the creative process and this time, I had new software to utilize. I had knowledge of the many tools available to use to create apps and I knew what I wanted to accomplish with the second book.

The Original Title of Floating Fun
The Original Title of Floating Fun

From the beginning, I knew I wanted to use the Kwik Photoshop plugin to create the book and Adobe Flash to draw the animations and illustrations. For the animations, I would use a sprite sheet creator, but I wasn’t sure if I would use Zwoptex, TexturePacker, Spriteloq, or SpriteHelper.

Adobe Flash - Initial Sketches
Adobe Flash – Initial Sketches

The deciding factor was being invited to alpha test Kwiksher’s new software that was being developed called “K2”. Not only was K2 adding a plethora of new features to its Kwik predecessor, but they were also working with Code and Web to create a K2 export function in the beta version TexturePacker Pro 3.0.0b10.

TexturePacker K2 Export
TexturePacker K2 Export

Having two great pieces of software working well together made it much easier to assemble the final project. In K2, you can select a layer, click the “Replace with Sprite Sheet” icon, then select the files TexturePacker created for you, and your animation is inserted in your book. It’s very easy to use and saves a ton of time trying to program sprite sheets in manually.

K2 - Beta 2 Interface
K2 – Beta 2 Interface

A few other features I used in K2 were the navigation menu, physics, external code insertion, and text highlighting. Clicking the Navigation Menu check box auto-generates an interface in which users can navigate your book through a series of thumbnail images. This is a nice addition, especially for users that want to navigate to a specific page without having to flip through the entire book.

(YouTube video showing physics, text highlighting, navigation menu and external bubble popping game code.)

The K2 physics feature allows developers to add gravity to pages of their books or even develop games directly in Photoshop. So if you’re looking for an easy way to create a game app, but don’t know where to get started, you can now use Kwik and Photoshop.

The external code feature can also help you develop games in Kwik. If you know your way around Lua coding and want to add your own code into a K2 project, you can now paste it in using the External Code option and choose where you want it to be inserted in the published file.

Floating Fun was the first eBook published using the K2 beta as well as the beta version of TexturePacker’s K2 exporter, without either of those pieces of software I would not have had the time or energy to create the book through an alternate method. Both K2 and TexturePacker saved me a lot of time and manual coding to create my book.

 

Kindle Fire Review

Samsung Galaxy Tab 7, Kindle Fire, iPad (1st Gen), Nook Color

Kindle Fire:

When I opened the packaging, I was reminded of the experience of opening an iPad box. Just the unit and a charging cable, all someone would need if the interface is designed properly. Like the iPad, you can play around with it for 5 minutes and figure out how entire experience operates without an instruction manual. As soon as it booted up, it knew I was its owner and my Amazon.com account was already tied to it. It had to install an update before it could get started, whch I thought was weird since it just came out 2 days ago.

The unit itself is sleek with only one button on the entire device, which is the power button. To adjust the volume while watching a movie you have to touch screen and then options to pause, adjust volume, or exit appear. The speed is pretty quick, much faster than a Nook Color. It has a soft backing which has some grip to it on smooth desktops and it’s almost the exact size as a Galaxy Tab 7. The only thing I don’t care for is the power cord connection to the device. It rocks back and forth when it’s inserted and feels like it might snap off at any moment. Its the same size plug as an HTC Thunderbolt so some Android smartphone users can always use one of their existing chargers. The power cord is also pretty short, so it’s hard to find a spot in the house where you can use the device while it’s charging.

The Cloud system that stores all of your digital Amazon.com purchases is nice and since the physical memory storage is so small on the Fire, I can only assume they prefer you use the Cloud service. Devices like the Nook Color and Nook Tablet utilize a microSD card, which hackers exploit to root the devices to install uncensored versions of the Android OS and Marketplace. Opting out of a microSD slot means users will have to use Amazon’s App Store and Marketplace, which will compensate for the money lost on each Kindle Fire sold. The downside of limited storage and reliance of the Cloud is that you’ll have to choose carefully what books, movies, TV shows, music, pictures and apps you actually save to the device if for some reason you’re not near a wi-fi hotspot. The good part is that wherever you have a wireless internet connection, you have access to all of your Amazon.com digital purchases.

One thing about the Kindle that I’m pleasantly surprised about is the fact that you can go into settings and allow app installs from unknown sources. This is huge for developers because you can test your .apk files on the Kindle Fire before you submit them to Amazon for approval. I tested this with the app “Mosby’s CEN Exam Prep” that I developed for MC Strategies for Android phones. Interestingly enough, when I spoke to someone from Amazon tech support they said the CameraRoll function won’t be supported and must be removed from the coding or the app won’t work. This actually didn’t cause any issues on the app I tested, and CameraRoll coding is fine to use if you’re using it for screenshots and not accessing a physical camera, since the Fire doesn’t have one.

Even though the Kindle Fire is very much a limited system and you can only download apps that have been approved by them, the fact that you can install your own .apk files shows their not totally closed off. A device such as the Nook Color doesn’t even understand what an .apk file is even though it too, runs on Android. For $200 it’s a solid eReader that comes with plenty of extras. People have a tendency to try to compare it to an iPad, which it is not. A $200 tablet made for accessing your Amazon.com media is not going to be able to compete with a $500 device that some people use as a laptop replacement. However, for what it is, the Amazon Kindle Fire is well worth the money.

Kindle Fire vs. Nook Color: The Kindle Fire is faster, has better quality apps, and let’s you install your own .apk files. However, since the Nook Color supports microSD cards, you can root Froyo or Honeycomb onto it. Of course, the Nook Color wasn’t built to run rooted versions of Honeycomb and Froyo, so they’re a bit slow and unstable. Also, the Fire was made to compete with the more powerful Nook Tablet, not the older Nook Color, so the comparison is a bit unfair. In a side by side comparison, the Kindle Fire wins this battle though.

Kindle Fire vs. Samsung Galaxy Tab 7: This is purely a competition of features vs. cost. Both units have similar processing power, the same screen resolution and are almost exactly the same size. However, the Tab is a fully-functional Android tablet with access to an uncensored Marketplace and the features that everyone seems to love, front and back cameras. Plus, you can sign up for 3G access through Sprint or Verizon if you don’t want to always have to be near a wi-fi hotspot. This of course comes at a price. Over twice the price in fact. The Galaxy Tab will run you a little over $400 at Best Buy sans 3G contract. Verizon will give you the device for less, if you’re willing to sign up for 2 years of monthly data plan fees, which ends up costing more in the long run. So for features Galaxy Tab wins, for price Kindle Fire wins hands down.

Kindle Fire vs. iPad: This isn’t really a fair comparison because the Kindle Fire isn’t really meant to be an iPad competitor, especially an iPad 2 competitor. Again, it’s a features vs. cost compensation you’ll have to make. Tons of apps, the backing of Apple, plenty of accessories, front and back cameras, and microphone at a starting price of $500 or a solid Amazon tablet with plenty of extras for $200. If you can afford it, the iPad will give you many more features, but if you don’t believe in spending the cost of a new computer on a tablet, then pick up the Fire.

The Perfect Pillow v2.0: Now Available

After discovering Corona SDK and the Kwik plug-in, I decided to re-create my children’s book “The Perfect Pillow”. Going from Objective-C to Corona’s Lua programming language was a sigh of relief. Also, by using Kwik, I was very easily able to implement the “Read to Me’ feature found on many other children’s iPad books. My sister-in-law Leslie (@darlingstewie) graciously donated her time and voice talent to narrate and do some voice acting for the new version.

Pick up the new version on iTunes: http://itunes.apple.com/ye/app/the-perfect-pillow/id466002172?mt=8

I was so thrilled by the ease of Kwik, I decided to create them a badge, which resembles Corona’s bade, both shown here:

Developed with Kwik badge
A badge I created for Kwik.

Cross-platform Mobile App Development Showcase