First Look: Apple's new iBooks Author

Posted:
in Mac Software edited January 2014


Apple has released its new iBooks Author in the Mac App Store for free, enabling users to create dynamic, multimedia ebooks targeted for iPad deployment.



The new iBooks Author is billed as a tool to "create and publish amazing Multi-Touch books for iPad," but can also export to a standard PDF viewable anywhere. The main thrust is in creating ebook titles for the iBookstore.



Getting published



Apple notes, "You can request that your book be made available for public download by submitting it to the iBookstore," which requires creating a seller account, downloading iTunes Producer (used to upload content to the iTunes Store), and signing a publisher contract.



Submitted books must offer a free sample, although the publisher can decide how much and what content to offer in this sample. The file limit for published books is 2 GB, but Apple recommends that authors keep their ebooks under 1 GB and notes that readers on 3G networks are limited to downloads of 20 MB or less.



Books published through iBooks are protected with iTunes' FairPlay which "helps prevent unauthorized duplication of your book," but Apple adds that "movies and audio included in HTML widgets are not DRM protected."



Authors can also export book files they can distribute on their own, in addition to exporting a PDF or the plain text of their work.



Authoring books



The new iBooks Author app interface will be very familiar to iWork users, with an appearance similar to Keynote and text editing features virtually identical to Pages.









Like other iWork apps, when opened it presents a template chooser offering a half dozen professionally designed textbook types named basic, contemporary, modern type, classic, editorial and craft.









In the portrait orientation, iBooks Author presents the text of the book (below is the classic template) as it would appear on an iPad, with a primarily text-based focus.









Set to landscape orientation (from the tool bar), the presentation is laid out more akin to Keynote slides, with all photos, movies and other content appearing inline.









The basic features of template includes the Book Title graphics, "Intro Media," which is an introductory image or video that plays when the book is opened, a Table of Contents generated automatically as you create new chapters and sections of content, and a Glossary of terms that includes a definition, links to related glossary terms, and an index of where the word appears in the text.













For an immediate preview of how the book looks on an iPad, the user can simply plug in an iPad via USB and click the Preview toolbar button. A dialog sheet drops down to select the device, and as long as the connected iPad has the iBooks 2.0 app running, the in-progress book will appear in its iBooks library as a viewable title labeled "proof."



Exported as a text file, the document appears as an ".ibooks" document. It's also possible to export an ".iba" file for moving the book project to another Mac running iBooks Author.



There's currently no support for importing and converting existing complex documents, such as PDFs or EPUB ebooks; only basic support of text input, including content from Word or Pages documents.



On of 2: Working with iBooks Author



Working with iBooks Author sections and pages



Laying out new pages of a new iBook works like iWork's Pages, where you must edit the content to rearrange its position within a chapter or section. You can't simply drag around individual pages because your text repaginates across pages.



As you type text into the flow of the book (or import existing text from Word or Pages, one chapter at a time), new pages are automatically created. You can also add arbitrary text blocks anywhere in the page, but this text isn't connected to the text flow of the book. Conversely, you don't have to manually create text blocks that flow the main content of the book from one page to the next; that's done automatically.



Individual chapters and sections behave like Keynote slides, allowing you to freely drag them around the rearrange their order. As you create and rearrange chapters and sections, the Table of Contents automatically updates. Each template provides a selection of chapter and section layout types, also similar to Keynote.









In the classic template, a chapter layout can be a Preface or a Chapter, while the section layouts offer a basic design for a Section, Section Text, Copyright, Forward or a Dedication page. Within a section, a page template can offer one, two or three columns of text.









Embellishing pages



From the basic page template, authors can add arbitrary text boxes, shapes (which may also contain text), tables and charts, all in the same way these elements are added within Keynote or Pages; just drag the item into the page, customize its attributes, define it as inline, floating or anchored with the type of text wrap desired and set a level of opacity, shadow and other features.



Like other iWork apps, it's easy to drop in photos, videos and audio using the standard Media Browser.



Something new in iBooks Author is support for Widgets, an idea taken from iWeb for adding a self-contained bit of interactive content. In iBooks Author, there are a half dozen provided Widgets, including:



Gallery (adds a sequence of graphics with captions that users can swipe between).









Media (embeds an AAC audio or H.264 video the reader can play)



Review (adds an interactive multiple choice or drag to match question for readers to review the material presented)









Keynote (embeds a presentation presented as HTML)



Interactive Image (creates an image with "callout" labels and supporting zooming in for detail)









3D (embeds a COLLADA 3D model that the reader can rotate). Apple says the first-generation iPad "is optimized for viewing 3D objects with fewer than 20,000 moderately textured polygons" while iPad 2 "supports viewing 3D objects in a completed book with up to 50,000 moderately textured polygons." Objects can be set to auto rotate in the finished book, but aren't animated in iBooks Author.



HTML (adds an interactive Dashboard widget to the book).



After a Widget is dropped in the page, you can add accessibility text via the Inspector, which identifies the content when users activate VoiceOver when using the digital book. Other attributes of the widget can similarly be set from the Inspector.



iBooks Author in review



Overall, the new iBooks Author app feels like a natural part of iWork, and what iWeb "should have been." The difference with iWeb is that iBooks Author now targets the iPad with what is essentially a rich, self contained web app that has a lot in common with iTunes Extras and iTunes LP, but extremely easy to create (rather than generating fancy web pages like iWeb, some features of which many browsers had trouble rendering properly).



Just using the built in functionality, iBooks Authors allows anyone to create interactive books, with a focus on creating immersive textbooks. By incorporating standards-based Dashboard Widgets, which are created from HTML, CSS and JavaScript (and can be built using Apple's Dashcode development tool), authors and publishers can develop their own novel types of interactivity.



The new app opens up lots of opportunities for anyone wanting to publish professional looking material with automated reference features (including an indexed Glossary of terms and an easily searchable Table of Contents) and learning tools, and promised to make iPads in education even more useful and customizable.



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Comments

  • aderutteraderutter Posts: 218member
    Adobe staff must be crying right now...
  • bobdylanbobdylan Posts: 36member
    I always wanted to publish my own book with large exposure this is perfect!!



    I guess I'll resign my job and turn into a freelance Hank Moody right now.



    Thank you so much Apple!
  • jmmxjmmx Posts: 340member
    NOTE: requires Mac OS 10.7 - Lion
  • blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 1,244member
    I think some people owe that Ars Techncia guy an apology.



    This is totally awesome btw. I'm blown away that it's free. Can't wait to download it this weekend.
  • x38x38 Posts: 95member
    That's pretty fast review work. Didn't you just post an article two days ago about how this event was NOT going to be about a new text book authoring tool?



    http://iphone.appleinsider.com/artic...not_tools.html
  • blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 1,244member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by aderutter View Post


    Adobe staff must be crying right now...



    While their senior management continues on totally oblivious.



    It's insane that Apple beat Adobe to market with a tool like this. Totally insane. Creating tools like this ought to be Adobe's entire reason to exist. What a bunch of knuckleheads.
  • simtubsimtub Posts: 276member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by aderutter View Post


    Adobe staff must be crying right now...



    LOL
  • techboytechboy Posts: 183member
    Apple is really driving a dagger into Adobe now. While this doesn't kill Adobe's InDesign but looks a lot more intuitive to learn and it's FREE ... I'm looking forward to test out this app soon.
  • sirozhasirozha Posts: 158member
    I have downloaded iBooks Author and have tried to open the ePub books that I had purchased from Cisco Press - they are non-DRM ePub books that I can read on my iPad and iPhone, using the iBooks app in iOS.



    Here's the problem - I cannot open any ePub books in iBooks Author. So, my hopes that iBooks Author would not only allow one to publish eBooks, but also read non-DRM ePub books ,as well as Apple DRM ePub books purchased in iBooks store, have been dashed.



    When you save a file in iBooks Author, it saves it with extension .iba You can also export your file from iBooks Author as .pdf, .txt, or .ibooks. PDF files exported like this can be opened in any PDF reading software, including Preview and Adobe Acrobat Reader. The .txt file exported from iBooks Author file has absolutely no formatting applied to it - not even line breaks. The .ibooks file exported from iBooks Author can probably be read in the iOS iBooks app; unfortunately, iBooks Author cannot open a file with .ibooks extension even though it has just created this file as an export; neither can iBooks Author open a .pdf file that it has just created as an export.



    So, to me, this tool has a very limited functionality - probably due to intellectual property rights restriction.



    I especially find the limitation of not being able to read non-DRM ePub format to be disappointing. I can see why Apple would not allow one to edit an ePub book, but I cannot see why this application cannot read ePub books or export your own writing into the non-DRM'ed ePub format. I guess if you decide to sell your book via the iBooks store, Apple will convert the .iba file into the Apple-DRM'ed ePub and will be selling it in that format. But if I don't want to sell books but rather want to convert hundreds of Gigabytes of technical documentation that I have written over many years from MS Word (.doc) into non-DRM'ed ePub, I am out of luck. The reason that I do not want to convert these documents into PDF is that PDF-formatted documents cannot be re-sized in the iBooks app on the iPad or iPhone, whereas ePub documents can be re-sized on the fly based on the screen size and resolution.



    You cannot just open an MS Word document or a Pages document in iBooks Author. You can insert a "Chapter from Pages or word document ...", but the import from MS Word did not preserve all the formatting. So, this functionality may be useful with files created in Pages but is questionable with files created in MS Word.



    So far - I'm not impressed. I am hoping that iWork '12 is around the corner, and it would allow one to at least read ePub books in Pages '12.
  • mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member
    iBooks Author turns out to be a lot more powerful than I expected. So much for iBooks open standards that was touted in the original introduction. Talk about synergies in the Apple ecosystem. This really does solidify the iPad as the education platform. I do think they need to bring it to the Mac as well though. Any word on the DRM capabilities?



    I didn't bring my MBP with Lion today so I can't try it out right now on SL but I'm really interested how it handles the Algebraic formulas since I noticed one of the templates is Algebra. Math has been very difficult to do in HTML so I am curious how they addressed this.
  • lwslws Posts: 9member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by mstone View Post


    I'm really interested how it handles the Algebraic formulas since I noticed one of the templates is Algebra. Math has been very difficult to do in HTML so I am curious how they addressed this.



    As far as I can see, they don't handle it at all, which is quite a bummer. I'm not so sure how easy it would be to create some textbooks that call for math, chemical formula, etc?
  • mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by sirozha View Post


    When you save a file in iBooks Author, it saves it with extension .iba You can also export your file from iBooks Author as .pdf, .txt, or .ibooks. PDF files exported like this can be opened in any PDF reading software, including Preview and Adobe Acrobat Reader. The .txt file exported from iBooks Author file has absolutely no formatting applied to it - not even line breaks. The .ibooks file exported from iBooks Author can probably be read in the iOS iBooks app; unfortunately, iBooks Author cannot open a file with .ibooks extension even though it has just created this file as an export.



    I guess there is no editing the raw source code then. That sucks. I can see why they would want to lock it down but I was hoping they would keep backward compatibility with open standards ePub.
  • whiterabbitwhiterabbit Posts: 208member
    Unfortunately, the documents are not compatible with the iPhone version of iBooks. They can be loaded into the library, but not actually viewed.
  • paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,131member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by sirozha View Post


    So far - I'm not impressed. I am hoping that iWork '12 is around the corner, and it would allow one to at least read ePub books in Pages '12.



    Well, I have just had a quick look and so far I am hugely impressed. I am thinking photo books for family and friends. It is now VERY easy to create a photo book with video and images and distribute it to relevant parties. Photo books are generally crap but creating them like this is fast and easy, and viewing on iPads is so much better than paper. (Specially when a high res iPad arrives)



    I can see companies creating catalogues, instructions, training course work, manuals etc etc for limited distribution. I think this alone is a big WOW!



    For better or worse every Tom Dick and Harry will now produce their own book and publish it in the iBookstore.



    I think this is going to be huge, ruffle many feathers, thrill a lot of people....
  • sportyguy209sportyguy209 Posts: 33member
    Maybe it's me, but the page 2 of the article link doesn't seem to work.
  • daveyjjdaveyjj Posts: 120member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by sportyguy209 View Post


    Maybe it's me, but the page 2 of the article link doesn't seem to work.



    No, it's me too.
  • digitalclipsdigitalclips Posts: 15,390member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by paxman View Post


    Well, I have just had a quick look and so far I am hugely impressed. I am thinking photo books for family and friends. It is now VERY easy to create a photo book with video and images and distribute it to relevant parties. Photo books are generally crap but creating them like this is fast and easy, and viewing on iPads is so much better than paper. (Specially when a high res iPad arrives)



    I can see companies creating catalogues, instructions, training course work, manuals etc etc for limited distribution. I think this alone is a big WOW!



    For better or worse every Tom Dick and Harry will now produce their own book and publish it in the iBookstore.



    I think this is going to be huge, ruffle many feathers, thrill a lot of people....



    It is so much fun and with PDF export too! This like PageMaker meets Pages on Steroids.
  • dr millmossdr millmoss Posts: 5,403member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by sirozha View Post


    You cannot just open an MS Word document or a Pages document in iBooks Author. You can insert a "Chapter from Pages or word document ...", but the import from MS Word did not preserve all the formatting. So, this functionality may be useful with files created in Pages but is questionable with files created in MS Word.



    Have you tried inserting from Pages? An important function, if it works.



    I would try this myself but I am stuck on Snow Leopard so iBooks Author is out of reach for me right now.
  • sirozhasirozha Posts: 158member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Dr Millmoss View Post


    Have you tried inserting from Pages? An important function, if it works.



    I would try this myself but I am stuck on Snow Leopard so iBooks Author is out of reach for me right now.



    I don't have Pages - I am waiting for new iWork to be released. I have been using MS Office (first '08 and then '11) ever since I switched from PCs four years ago, and frankly, the new iWork cannot come out soon enough for me at this point. I just don't feel like buying the old version unless Apple decides to provide free upgrade to the new version. I know Apple is not making a lot of money on iWork, but if they announced a free future upgrade, they could have had so many more people switch from MS Office to iWork, knowing that when the new iWork becomes available, they can just upgrade for free (or a nominal fee of a few dollars).



    Additionally, because Apple did not protect DVD versions of iWork from unauthorized duplication in the past, there was no easy way for them to tell if a person has purchased iWork or just pirated it. Now that iWork is available via the Mac App Store, they can control who gets a free upgrade to the new iWork and who has to purchase it for the full price.
  • solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Blastdoor View Post


    While their senior management continues on totally oblivious.



    It's insane that Apple beat Adobe to market with a tool like this. Totally insane. Creating tools like this ought to be Adobe's entire reason to exist. What a bunch of knuckleheads.



    I had originally thought ? before the iPad was ever even demoed ? that Apple would have to heavily focus on creation tools for remaining textbooks to make the iPad work for education. I had incorrectly assumed this would have to be a driving force out of the gate. I'm glad I'm somewhat redeemed 2 years later.
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