Apple had an education event in late January in New York that allowed any company to dip their foot in the textbook industry. This was through the release of iBooks 2, a more textbook focused iBooks app than the previous version, for the iPad. In addition, Apple released iTunes U for iPhone, allowing individuals to enjoy the college course videos and podcasts they know and love from iTunes, on their iOS devices. Last but not least, Apple made it possible for every individual to have a chance to get into the publishing field with iBooks Author for Mac. Today, we will crack open the application to see what it offers us.
Ready From Start Up
iBooks Author is available for download in the Mac App Store. After downloading the free application, you have the average agreements shown that you must agree to, then you are shown the Template Chooser, as shown above. This page is what you see every time you start up. You have a choice of six templates, all with an educational theme. Less emphasis is put on your previous projects, all confined to a drop down menu at the bottom left of the window. If you have an old iBooks Author project, for example a finished one, you can access it by going to Open an Existing File, and search for the book from there.
iBooks Author’s Interface
The application’s interface gives me many memories of other applications I have used on the Mac. iBooks Author just has that classic Mac app look that we know. This also means that navigation is easy to catch on. You have the top left area that allows you to add a page or section. You can then change the page orientation at the top, edit text, add graphics and graphs, add widgets, and even preview and publish the book by clicking one of the selections at the top. The far right section is where you can access more intricate editing, add photos and other media, as well as customize color and font.
The left side is where you can see the cover, add an introduction photo, and view Table of Contents. This is the point when things get a little confusing. Instead of seeing the Table of Contents of the whole book, you see it for the section. You also have a section for a glossary, showing the application’s emphasis on education. The bottom half of this side allows you to see the full layout of the book, per chapter and section. When focusing on interface, we notice that it’s quite easy to understand. Everything is based on drag and drop. There isn’t a loading time, for example, when I dragged a six minute long video. When you drag multiple photos, the application has blue alignment lines that allow you to align all photos together.
iBooks Author allows you to add widgets into your book. The widgets include photo galleries, videos, the ability to add interactive tests, a Keynote powerpoint, interactive and 3D images, as well as a custom widget through HTML. The widgets section is the feature that allows you to add components that distinguish classic paper textbooks from digital ones. There are many possibilities with using widgets. For example, photo galleries can make the text in your book come alive. Videos can offer a better way of showing the content than what text and even photos can. Interactive tests allow the reader to know if they correctly or incorrectly answered a question, in real time. You also can see interactive images as great for showing off a globe or maybe the anatomy of a body, where the reader can click certain sections and learn more. The possibilities are endless.
The Finished Product
After completing the book, you may want to preview the book on an iPad. Simply connect your iPad, launch the iBooks app, click Preview in the iBooks Author Mac app, select your device, and preview from there. Once done, you have three exporting options. The first option allows you to publish your book on iBookstore. This is where your book is available for mass download/purchase. You then have the ability to export through PDF. Lastly, the whole book can be saved in a text file.
Each option has their benefits and drawbacks. The benefits with iBookStore is that you can publish and sell your books quickly and started making money. The export to PDF option has your book available in a widely shareable format. On the other hand, publishing to the iBookstore means that your content is now partially in the hands of Apple, who get a cut in profits. This also means your book is under their regulations. The PDF option is nice, but you have an iBooks Author tag on each page. The text option is convenient, but interactive content won’t show up.
We all want or at least wanted as a child to be an author. iBooks Author has made it incredibly easy to do so. The ease of use will allow Apple to be the gateway for many aspiring authors, creating a new batch of educational content for all to enjoy. However, this ease does come with some drawbacks for the author. If you have read the user agreements (I bet you don’t), it stated clearly that you cannot make money from your book on any other site. This prevents you greatly. Very few well published books stay on just one site. Many are on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other sites. This won’t be possible through iBooks Author. However, if iBookstore is sufficient for you, then you will greatly enjoy the application’s ease of use and accessibility. Why aren’t these eTextbooks available on iPhone? Beyond me, maybe the extra screen real estate, however it won’t be far fetched to see this change soon.
iBooks Author for Mac: Download Link
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