The Great Journey in Photography

iBooks Author and You

CoastalBird BookCover 12x8

Graphics by KM Dezine

They say it was one of Steve Jobs’s greatest passions. Since the moment I first touched an iPad on launch day almost two years ago, I have been trying to make an e-book that works well on the iPad. At the time there were no good solutions. I was looking for a high level of interactivity, rich graphics for photo display, a meaningful method of distribution and something that was relatively easy to produce. I checked out e-Pub publishing and that was horrible on every level. It was just a method of scaling text for the most part, everything else took a lot of work and required advanced skills. PDF’s were easy to make and distribute but they lacked much interactivity and didn’t scale well. In the end I landed on making a Keynote presentations. Keynote made beautiful documents with a high level of interaction and even audio but it proved almost impossible to distribute with large file sizes and Mac only viewing.

Enter the new iBook Author application from Apple. Introduced in New York last week, Steve’s great passion of electronic book distribution has come to life. iBooks Author knocks down at least two pins in the battle of creating e-books. It is an application that makes building an electronic book about as easy as possible and it has an extremely high level of interactivity. There are five widgets that bring everything to life. I have to admit that I have not had the chance to fully explore all of them because some of it is simply over my head at this time but here is a quick overview.
Interactive Image Galleries-Embed high quality picture galleries that show full screen with thumbnails captions and titles.
Video and Audio-You can embed video movies and audio that will play up to full screen, automatically if you wish, and even the capability to make a video intruduction.
Embed a Keynote presentation-Yes, you can take that gorgeous keynote presentation and have play full screen right inside your book. I believe the effects are limited to those available in the iOS versions though.
3D Images-Readers can interact with 3D images. These images are becoming more common and you can even create them at no cost with the Google Sketch Up application.
HTML Modules-You can write code to have the same functionality as websites and is updatable. Well not exactly, as I understand it java script is required and this only writes dashcode. I can write and modify some HTML but I have to say that this module is beyond my expertise at this time.

Add all those together with the great design and organizational capabilities of the text maker application Pages and you have one heck of an e-book making machine. But it does only hit the two pins of being easy to use and highly interactive, there is still the issue of distribution. There is good news/bad news about that. First the good news. It is really easy to publish the book to the iBooks store, you can charge or give it away and Apple takes its usual thirty percent cut. There are about a hundred million iPads in circulation right now and that is a whole lot of eyeballs. The bad news is the books are only available to iPad owners in its purest form. Apple allows export as PDF and standard e-Pub also but they lose functionality and distribution for sale may be forbidden in the SLA. I would say that third pin is wobbling and we are all hoping the ball will bounce back and knock it over. Most of that is up to Apple.

iBooks Author is available free of charge to anyone with a Mac running OS Lion and there is a verification procedure required to distribute in the iBook store. If you have always dreamed of making an interactive photo book iBooks Author is probably the application for you.

You can learn more about iBooks Author and download it here.


One response

  1. I share your excitement about the potential of iBooks Author. For many years I’ve wanted to do an interactive travel book but ran into similar problems of huge file sizes, distribution, etc. This reminds me of the early days of underground/counterculture publishing — my book on Mexico, for example, broke all of the accepted rules about publishing. It is still alive and well and in print after 40 years — and I feel the same kind of excitement I did back then when I think about what I might be able to do with “Author”.

    Please let me know when you release your own project.

    Carl Franz
    The People’s Guide To Mexico

    January 27, 2012 at 2:06 pm

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