Of the many reasons most cookbook users still prefer print to digital, layout may be one of the most important, second only to the difficulty of keeping an iPad screen away from splattering oil or sticky fingers. But some publishers are addressing the first problem by using a fixed-layout, in which text and images are specifically positioned in horizontal two-page spreads, so they look very much the way they do in print.
Workman’s new 25th anniversary digital edition of the classic The Silver Palate Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins is one impressive example. The $14.99 book, available exclusively on the iBookstore, has gorgeous color photos and 350 recipes. It looks exactly as it does it print, with sumptuous shots of the delicious party food the book—now in its 100th printing—is known for. Recipes are linked, too, so when the recipe for Cheese Straws, on page 22, which requires a pound of puff pastry, mentions that there’s a recipe for that pastry on page 423, one tap, and you’re there. You can read the book on your iPhone or iPod Touch, though unsurprisingly, it looks most impressive on the iPad.
All this beauty comes at a minor cost: search takes a while. But it certainly does work, especially if you know what you’re looking for. Type in “chicken Marbella,” for instance, and it isn’t too long before a gorgeous shot of the famous roasted chicken dish with olives, prunes, capers, and herbs is up on your screen, making you wish the iPad had some sort of scent function.
Layout and ease of use are two of print’s traditional advantages, but there are myriad reasons to love digital. A huge one? Enhanced e-books. Vook has been releasing cookbooks with video elements for a while now, but traditional publishers are adding video to their e-books, too. One of the best I’ve seen lately is Asian Dumplings: Mastering Gyoza, Spring Rolls, Samosas, and More by Andrea Nguyen. Ten Speed published the print version in 2009, and an enhanced e-book is now available for $14.99. Both the print and digital version of the book have drawings to help you shape dumplings, but the enhanced edition has a set of 12 videos that help you learn techniques. And if you’re making dumplings, videos can come in very handy.
In the videos, Nguyen explains and demonstrates how to form dumpling dough into half-moon, pea pod, and “big hug” shapes (which look like wontons). Having trouble making the pleated crescent dumpling? Confused about shaping samosas? Nguyen’s short videos, each about a minute long to minimize download time, address it all. The author is working on a new book, Asian Tofu, which will also have an enhanced e-book edition.
We’re still in the early days of digital cookbooks, and it’ll be a long time before print cookbooks outpace digital books in terms of functionality in the kitchen. Still, digital bells and whistles like fixed layout and video make browsing through cookbooks and learning from them easy and fun.