How we made the eBook of Fantastic Beasts – The Wonder of Nature

26th November 2020

The new eBook, Fantastic Beasts – The Wonder of Nature, is released today by Pottermore Publishing. It accompanies a new exhibition at the Natural History Museum in London. Here’s how we made it.

The magical world of J.K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts meets the real-world experts of the world-famous Natural History Museum, in a book devoted to the wonders of nature, science and adventure – and their fictional counterparts from Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts.

Taking inspiration from Newt Scamander, this gorgeous book invites the whole family to explore the inspiration and links between the magic of J.K. Rowling’s creatures and the astonishing real-world wildlife that has roamed the earth, seas and skies of our planet throughout history.

The physical edition of the book is a large-format ‘coffee table’ hardback, with plenty of room given to its photographs and illustrations. Converting such a title into an eBook-friendly digital format would be a challenge if we attempted a straight reproduction of the contents. So we worked with our eBook development partners Nord Compo, who previously designed the digital editions of our other heavily illustrated, large-format titles for us – Harry Potter: A History of Magic and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: The Journey.

The approach was to redesign, not to reproduce, the content of the book – whilst remaining as faithful as possible to the original beautiful design by Bloomsbury’s team and designer Dave Brown.

We couldn’t support double-page spreads in the eBook, but each major image was give its own prominent position on the page. These images can be enlarged with a double tap. Caption text is segmented so it is given plenty of space alongside the photographs and illustrations.

Choosing to work with re-flowable text, rather than a fixed-format design, means that the essays which start each chapter (from explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes through to conservationist Mya Rose-Craig) are as readable as possible, with users being able to adjust the font styling and size.

The risk in creating an eBook of such a visually ‘busy’ book is over-stuffing the design, so we worked with Nord Compo to simplify and remove design elements which felt like they crowded the content on digital reading devices.

Some borders and block background colours were removed, and we simplified the golden borders which demarcated Wizarding World items in the book – because often they were breaking up across pages in the reading experience.

Some elements could have been removed, but we decided to keep them. One example of this were the directional arrows which point readers of the physical book to see which image a caption describes. We retained these in the digital design as they give the book a pleasing design coherence, even if most of the time it’s clear what text applies to which image.

Finally, there are design elements which solve problems in a print book which can create issues in a digital edition. The pull quotes from the Hogwarts Library Book Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them are used throughout the hardback edition, threading Newt Scamander’s voice throughout the text.

They also help fill in space where there would otherwise be a blank space too small for an image. They aren’t necessary for this reason in the digital edition but we kept every single one, for the editorial reason of affirming Newt’s place in the book and forthcoming exhibition at the Natural History Museum.

As Newt puts it:  ‘It is my fondest hope that a new generation of witches and wizards will find in its pages fresh reason to love and protect the incredible beasts with whom we share magic.’

Hear, hear!

Fantastic Beasts – The Wonder of Nature is available now (except in the USA).



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