Monday, January 30, 2012

iBooks Author: Links to resources (so far)

If you are interested in making ebooks, you've probably already heard about Apple's new iBook creation tool, iBooks Author. To clear up one bit of confusion, iBooks Author is a Mac app (for desktop or laptop computer) to make an interactive iBook that is read in the iBooks 2 app on the iPad. In other words, you're not making the iBook on your iPad, unlike Book Creator, for example, which makes a standard iBook. (Here is my post about using Book Creator.)

The term interactive means different things to different people, from choose-your-own-adventure stories to ebooks with tappable read-aloud text to game-like animated book apps. This blog post by Curating Book App Mom discusses iBooks Author and interactivity. Seems like we need better terminology to describe these digital books…but they're a moving target!

In order to download the free iBooks Author app, you must have a Mac with the Lion OS installed. To read the souped up iBooks you need the free iBooks 2 app on your iPad. The free sample of E.O. Wilson's Life on Earth has embedded videos, animations, photo galleries, 3D models you can manipulate in any direction, clickable maps, quizzes, and more. It's quite sophisticated, no doubt about it. The file size is large, though. One of the features I'm interested in using is embedded Keynote presentations. I think the file sizes for those could be much smaller than full videos, while still allowing movement and user-directed interaction.

[Update 2.23.2012]: A (currently) free 94 pages ebook, Publishing with iBooks Author by Nellie McKesson and Adam Witwer is available from O'Reilly. It covers the ins and outs of text formatting, tables, widgets, and much more.

To get an excellent overview of iBooks Author's features and what it can and can't do, check out this post by Ben Vanderberg.

Here is Apple's iBooks Author Support, which has several articles and tips such as to use "iPad safe fonts." There is also an iBooks Author forum here.

The templates that come with iBooks Author are set up for textbooks, with Chapters, Sections, and pages. This is great for textbooks, cookbooks, craft books and so on, but excess baggage for picture books, my primary interest. I haven't tackled stripping out those features myself yet, but came across this article by Dani Jones that shows how she put her comic book into a Photo Gallery widget to get full bleed images. Looks promising.

There has been some controversy about the licensing for this software, such as the limitation that you can only sell the resulting iBooks through Apple's iBookstore. (You can give them away on your web site, etc.) The article Why The Emotional Criticism of iBooks Author is Wrong links to some of the critical articles and attempts to address these concerns. There are 172 comments on it as of today, so if you'd like to wade into that, happy reading!

My biggest complaint is the totally inadequate Search capabilities on the iBookstore itself. My iBook Tracks in the Sand is about sea turtles, but if you search on "sea turtles" it won't come up. Only books with "sea turtle(s)" in the title or subtitle of the book show up in the search results. It's like trying to find books in a library that has no subject index, which obviously makes it difficult. If Apple is serious about making the iBookstore and its contents useful to teachers and students and readers in general, they need to support key words and/or pick up terms in an iBook's description. Hello?


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Monday, January 23, 2012

Barney Saltzberg: live from Digital Book World

Children's author-illustrator-songwriter Barney Saltzberg is attending the 2012 Digital Book World conference in New York, NY, which runs from today through Wednesday, January 25th. He is live-blogging his notes, so visit "Noodlings" to see what he is finding out. To read the rest of the entries on his blog, click on the right sidebar index of post titles. A few quotes…

How do traditional publishers deal with digital books?

Provide a reason to buy eBooks. Know and understand each ecosystem.

Knowing that tomorrow or whenever, digital is going to be part of the success of the book.
Bookstores and libraries still VERY important in discovery (About finding out about new children's books).

What drives the purchase of a book?

Thanks for the info, Barney!

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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Picture eBook publishing tutorial by Julie Olson

Freelance picture book illustrator Julie Olson has posted a detailed tutorial about how she created her ebook Princesses, Princesses, Princesses! on her blog called: How to Publish an Ebook Picture Book from a Mac: for Nook, Kindle, PDF.

Like many digital processes, your mileage may vary depending on what tools you have. In any case, check out her post to read a very detailed explanation with plenty of screen shots (yay!) The comments have some good nuggets in them as well.

Note that she has made the words part of the image as opposed to having the words in "live" font form. There are some disadvantages to this that I'm aware of: 

1 A user cannot use accessibility features such as having the text read aloud
2 Users cannot search on a word
3 The word will not stay as sharp if the page is enlarged.
Just some factors to be aware of when deciding how to create your ebook. I’m not sure whether InDesign could export the file properly the way Julie describes with live text because I haven't tried it. If anybody knows, please chime in.


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Thursday, January 12, 2012

New Kindle Publishing Guidelines released (Kindle Fire included)

The Kindle Fire tablet that was released in 2011 displays full-color images, unlike the previous Kindle ereaders. In addition, the images can cover the screen as opposed to having a white border around them. As a picture book author-illustrator, I’ve been interested to find out how easy or difficult it may prove to be to prepare picture books for the Fire. Finally, the publishing guidelines have been released. This email came yesterday from Amazon's Kindle publishing team:

“We’re pleased to announce that Kindle Publisher Tools with Kindle Format 8 (KF8) support are now available for download. Kindle Format 8 is Amazon’s next generation file format offering a wide range of new features and enhancements – including HTML5 and CSS3 support that publishers can use to create all types of books. KF8 adds over 150 new formatting capabilities, including drop caps, numbered lists, fixed layouts, nested tables, callouts, sidebars and Scalable Vector Graphics - opening up more opportunities to create Kindle books that readers will love. Kindle Fire is the first Kindle device to support KF8 - in the coming months KF8 will be rolled out to our latest generation Kindle e-ink devices as well as our free Kindle reading apps.

Publishers have created thousands of KF8 titles already and customers are enjoying the improved formatting and reading features across all types of books. Additionally, KF8 features such as Kindle Panel Views and Kindle Text Pop Up enable great fixed layout books including graphic novels, comics and children’s books. We’ve updated our Kindle Publishing Guidelines to help publishers get started with Kindle Format 8. 

Please download the new versions of KindleGen ( and Kindle Previewer ( to get started today. More information about KF8, Kindle Publishing Tools & Guidelines can be found at

For Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) users, KDP is ready to receive your KF8 books. In addition to accepting books in the KF8 format, KDP is releasing a new KDP Simplified Formatting Guide to help you take advantage of the new features offered by KF8. Go to for more information on publishing KF8 books via KDP.”

The section about fixed layout children's books (i.e. picture books) starts on page 23 of the Guidelines PDF. I’ve only scanned it, but it appears to require HTML coding, as opposed to the process for text-oriented ebooks, which can utilize InDesign, Word, and other programs. (Sigh.) Hopefully someone will create an app for the Fire analogous to the Book Creator app for the iPad. (Here is my post about using Book Creator.)

According to the Guidelines, Amazon has not yet released the additional instructions that will be required to create graphic novels, manga, and comic ebooks. Though I'm only speculating, the reason may have something to do with the ability to read the text, which is typically part of the image in comics et al. My reason for thinking that is that the guidelines for fixed layout books have an option called "region magnification," which allows the user to enlarge selected areas by double-tapping:
I haven’t played with a Kindle Fire so am wondering if this is an alternative to zooming? It seems to me that a better solution (at least for picture books) would be to use a font that is large enough to begin with…just saying. I could be totally mistaken, but I can't find any online discussion about it. Anyway, I’m not going to be tackling this anytime soon; if anyone out there working on a picture book or other image-oriented book for the Kindle Fire, please leave a comment.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Visit me at Cynsations

Today (Wednesday) I visit Cynthia Leitich Smith's blog to talk about promoting and marketing your BOOK APPS. I hope you'll GO READ!!!
Elizabeth O. Dulemba