IngramSpark has just added a much needed new landscape trim size to its book options, although it comes with some caveats.
Today IngramSpark announced a new trim size and not a moment too soon. The company's print-on-demand (POD) customers can now design a book to be landscape at 11-inches wide by 8.5-inches tall. This is great news for indie, self-publishing children’s picture book makers.
At Old Mate Media, we’re constantly creating new children’s picture books for release on multiple platforms. As we focus on self-published indie authors and illustrators, our services are streamlined to get the best bang for buck. The closer we can get a single image and layout to being suitable for tablet screens, mobile screens, Kindles and print books, the less time is required in design. Plus, less work needs to be done on correcting or adjusting illustrations to fit. And time costs money.
Until today, if you wanted to create a book to make the most of a digital screen, then you had to either compromise your print version, or redesign it. And vice versa. What a pain, right?
Why Was This New Trim Size Important?
Here's some interesting reading from the 2017 Children's Picture Book Report. 66% of children's book buyers strongly dislike poorly designed books. And one in two - a whopping 50% - have such low expectations for digital books they don't even expect it to be designed properly for digital formats. Design matters. Designing to format matters.
Let's consider a book in portrait orientation. It presents the least amount of issues when designing across formats. You can print in portrait easily, and design the digital versions so the reader holds the device in portrait mode. However, in digital form, you can only see one page at a time - this is where the landscape canvas is far more workable for displaying an image and text on a single screen. Asking users to see an image, and then flick to just the text on the next page, is a poor user experience.
Square is also easy to print, however, it creates its own issues in digital form. No screens are square in shape, so you either have a big letter-boxing issue. Or you try and fit a spread (two pages) on one piece of screen, which can make it very hard to read on small devices like phones.
The optimal solution - when your sole consideration is print-on-demand, at least - is a landscape book. One that is inherently the same shape as a digital screen. But sadly, print-on-demand services haven’t been playing ball. To date, Amazon, CreateSpace and IngramSpark – the big three of the POD world – have offered predominantly square or portrait trim sizes. It’s true that Amazon and CreateSpace do offer a 8.25-inch wide by 6-inch tall landscape trim size, but that’s way too small for most picture books.
This new trim size, however, is just about right.
How Does This New Trim Size Impact Design?
In order to illustrate why this is such great news, I will use an example. The below images are from our first children’s picture book in The Wild Imagination of Willy Nilly series, The Little Green Boat. It’s available in mobi (Kindle), interactive/multimedia ePub (iOS) and paperback/hardcover forms.
Note: You may also benefit from our inches to pixels POD trim size calculator.
On iOS, she’s a perfect fit. I can also put the text in an interactive button, so the art gets full display.
On Android and some iPhones, you get a little bit of letter-boxing, but the image remains big and the text can still be popped up.
On Kindle, the pop-up text functionality is poor and limited, but there's enough screen real estate to do nice big text without corrupting the space available to the image.
With no landscape trim size, and portrait a terribly inefficient use of space when working with landscape illustrations and images, print becomes a compromise. The big hurdle with print, which is not faced by digital, is that you have to deal with the bind. The bind – also called a gutter - is the canyon between the two pages, where your image is pulled inwards and glued, obscuring any details in that area.
Your best choice is square. You can either pull the image across the bind – therefore obscuring a chunk of it. (Note: I have showed in grey the area that will be impacted in some way by the bind).
Or, you can put it all on one page. This means shrinking your awesome image up in order to fit in the text. (What if you don’t have enough text to fill that space nicely? Or too much text?) Plus, it can often mean you have two images setting next to each other that clash in tone or setting in an unpleasing matter.
With the new trim size of 11-inches wide by 8.5-inches tall, you can show off the image nice and big. Then you can show off the text nice and big, too. Plus you have images and a layout easily adaptable to digital.
Note: For more info, or if you need help adapting your book to different formats, check out our design page.
What About That Caveat?
As mentioned at the top of the piece, it’s not all good news. While IngramSpark has offered this new trim size, it has restricted it to Premium Colour Books. These are significantly more expensive to print, and therefore more expensive to customers. Not a great solution for self-published authors trying to shift a few copies.
As an example, through IngramSpark our 48-page The Little Green Boat costs $4.10 to print in Standard Colour Book form using the 8.5-inch square trim size. In the new trim size via the Premium Colour Book form, its $11.16 to print. Not cool! Even more frustrating is that the same dimensions - 11-inch by 8.5-inch - in the existing portrait orientation is $8.72 in the Premium Colour Book form. So, for whatever reason, there is a $2.44 price hike for rotating the book 90-degrees. That in addition to the already increased cost of going Premium.
Adding to the frustration caused by locking the new trim size into the Premium Colour Books form is the fact that this form allows for Saddle Stitch as a binding option anyway. This means staples instead of glue. And staples have a far less invasive impact on your image and what is obscured. If Saddle Stitch was available in the Standard Colour Book option, then the first of our square layouts above would be far more user friendly.
So IngramSpark's new trim size is a case of the right intentions implemented in the wrong way.
There’s Still A Way To Go For This New Trim Size
Hopefully this is just the first of a more comprehensive announcement involving the Standard Color Books in the near future. Children’s Picture Books are one of only two categories in print (the other being cookbooks) that still has positive growth. And a massive proportion of them are in landscape. There is a huge hole here in the print-on-demand industry and I sure hope IngramSpark fill it completely – not just a bit.
And what of the other POD suppliers? It breaks my head a little that Amazon (and by association CreateSpace) doesn’t offer a suitable landscape trim size. Given that Amazon has the Kindle -and the Kindle can displays books in landscape - why would it not allow those same authors to publish their book in landscape through their POD? It’s daft in the extreme. But hopefully this move by IngramSpark will kickstart movement in that space. I sure hope all of the print-on-demand suppliers begin to offer a more consistent working environment for book creators who publish between digital and print.
Where to Next?
As mentioned earlier, we create children’s books for ourselves and self-published authors and illustrators all around the world. Our services and prices are catered to indies who want to have complete ownership of their work. Check out our step-by-step guide to creating a book to being your journey. Take a look through our Services options for more information. And sign-up to our newsletter to be notified of our next free guide. Last of all, don't forget to check out our books!