Introduction to iBooks Author
iBooks Author is a WYSIWYG app for creating digital books for the iPAD. It is available free on the Mac App Store. iBooks Author is Apple’s tool to win the battle against Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes and Noble’s Nook, and Apple aim to revolutionise modern textbooks by bringing interactivity to the learning experience.
The iBook format is very similar to the ePUB 3 standard, not only can you add images to your pages, the reader can zoom in or out of them. You can insert Keynote slides, 3D objects, interactive diagrams or movies that can either be viewed embedded inside a page or full-screen. There’s even the possibility of creating short quizzes to test your reader’s knowledge retention. These books bring content to life in ways the printed page never could and truly lives up to the “i” in iBooks!
Read the fine print!
Whith iBooks Author you’re diving into Apple’s platform. I don’t want to scare you away from it, but rather to give you the facts up front so that you can decide if iBooks Author is right for your book project. Note that you will only be able to sell your .ibooks file in the iBookstore. If you use iBooks Author to create your book, you cannot export the file and sell it in any channel other than the iBookstore. You can’t sell it on your website. You can’t sell it on Amazon. You can’t sell it anywhere else. This restriction is included in the iBooks Author EULA (End User License Agreement) and specifically applies to the ebook format (.ibooks) and not the content of the book.
The .ibooks format can only be read on iPads, no other iOS device. The enormous iPhone user base will not be able to read your digital textbook. iPhone users can only read the ePUB format (can be created with Pages).
Using iBooks Author
The true beauty of iBooks Author is that it is incredibly simple to use, and if you’re familiar with Apple’s iWork suite, you’ll feel right at home within its interface. It’s something between the iWork apps Pages and Keynote.
Honestly, I started using the tool within minutes. Just like other iWork programs, you start with a choice of template. There are six templates that comes included, but you can of course create your own.
You can write straight into iBooks Author, but I guess most of us will use a text processor for the writing process and then import the content to iBooks Author. Text is brought in seamlessly from Pages and Word, but remember that more complex formatting and embedded images can cause problems with the layout. The best way is to bring in the text and then add the multimedia content in iBooks Author.
Inserting media is done in the same easy way as with the iWork programs, through the Media window. With the Media window you locate photos, movies and music stored on your Mac. Applying the multi-touch interactivity is done with seven widgets, including being able to insert HTML dashcode applets, like those used to create Dashboard widgets on your Mac.
Preview Your Work
iBooks Author is an WYSIWYG editor, but you still want to preview your work as you design it. Simply connect your iPad to the Mac with the USB cable, click the Toolbar’s Preview icon and your book will be transferred for you to check. A purple ‘Proof’ banner appears on the cover of your ebook and you’ll be able to browse through it and interact with your widgets to make sure they all work as expected.
iBooks Author is a 1.0 product, which means it’s a little rough around the edges at times. The tool will only run on OS X 10.7.2 or newer version of the operating system. As it runs on OS X 10.7 (Lion), it comes with the operating systems inbuilt autosave feature.
ArsTechnica recently published a great review of iBooks Author that I recommend you to read.
Do you need further assistance? Please have a look at the free eBook Publishing with iBooks Author, available at O’REILLY (ePUB, mobi and PDF).