Monday, January 30, 2012
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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