Initial iBook 2 titles offer disappointing interactivity

Posted:
in iPad edited January 2014


The initial results of existing publishers' use of iBooks Author has been underwhelming, according to both industry players and users commenting on several of Apple's iBookstore titles.



Inside Apple's efforts to expand iPad content with iBooks Author



Disappointing initial results from Old Media



Slader, a collaborative online educational service that provides academic resources for high school students, compared conventional textbooks with the initial iBooks offered by the same publishers and noted, "It’s akin to reading a PDF copy of the printed textbooks that exist in classrooms today. The interactive features promised are virtually nonexistent. Beyond the usual iPad features (highlighting and in-page definitions), there’s nothing new included in the publishers’ math iBooks."



The site added, "Provided with the opportunity and tools to create a ground-breaking learning experience for students, the established textbook companies took an easy route. Given first dibs at a new, revolutionary platform, they chose to push the same stale content."



It then concluded, "the most exciting piece of Apple’s announcement this past week revolves around the ability for anyone to author a textbook; Apple has provided the tools and distribution network to develop content that far surpasses the current offerings. New authors could easily exceed the publishers’ low standards. Is that enough to shake up the textbook market?"



Individual reviews of iBookstore textbooks also conveyed a general disappointment. "Pretty poor showing for a launch of the new interactive iBooks," one reviewer complained about DK's "My First ABC" title for children. "I can't believe this is the poster child for interactive book debut. There's nothing to interact with!" another said.









A red flag for conventional book publishers



The initial iPhone apps that debuted in the App Store in 2008 and the first iPad apps introduced in 2010 were both largely impressive right from the start. The difference here is that iBooks are being created by non-programmers who are accustomed to creating books, and particularly books that have limited competition in a market that doesn't change very quickly.



That suggests conventional book publishers have more in common with the music labels and movie studios, who hesitantly tiptoed into iTunes with the horrified terror of a cat being forced to take a bath. Software developers, in contrast, pounded on Apple's door to demand that it let them make cool software.



This further suggests that, while Apple can eventually turn the publishing industry into a modern industry capable of delivering innovative, dynamic content, the company also has the potential to expand the technology behind iBooks Author to deliver more general purpose titles, ranging from comic books to fiction to even subscription content along the lines of magazines and blogs.



Apple focused on delivering subscription content for iPad users last year, but it targeted setting up a business model for publishers rather than giving them the tools to develop their content. The result was that publishers attempted to deliver static PDFs, exported Flash content, or essentially giant photos of their magazine pages, rather than investing the effort to actually develop dynamic new content.



Amazon has experienced similarly problems in trying to push publishers to deliver dynamic, interactive subscription content for its Kindle platform, with many reviews of the Kindle Fire complaining that magazine content was virtually unusable on the device.



The company's initial focus on producing high school textbooks makes the most sense for an initial effort, but after gaining a foothold, Apple appears poised to revolutionize how interactive publishing is done, taking a clear swipe at Adobe.



Segment three looks at how iBooks threatens to leverage web standards to not only replace Flash, but also to replace conventional page layout with dynamic, web-based technologies.



Sencha embeds interactive CSS3 animations in iBook Author

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Comments

  • tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 40,495member
    Well, that's that. Apple has failed and no one will use this system in the future to make things better.



    Publishers will shy away from the system entirely and it will be looked at by its competitors with a half-turn and a smug smile before they go back to their business.



  • lighteningkidlighteningkid Posts: 360member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post


    Well, that's that. Apple has failed and no one will use this system in the future to make things better.



    Publishers will shy away from the system entirely and it will be looked at by its competitors with a half-turn and a smug smile before they go back to their business.







    While I appreciate what you're insinuating - that of course this isn't the end of the line and the initial use of a V1 product doesn't mean the idea or intent is wrong - I can also appreciate what the reviewers of the books on iTunes are saying. Apple is the kind of company where you just expect them to show their best and prove why you want their stuff. It sounds like this time they didn't quite do it, at least not yet. They just chose poorly, and the first batch of books doesn't prove to people what iBooks 2 can really do, or what they wished it could do.



    You would have thought Apple would have screened the books and gone back to the publishers saying - "Hey, you can do better. You're not using our technology well. We want you to wow these people!"



    I guess maybe they realized the books weren't that great and that's why they only really showed Life on Earth.
  • suddenly newtonsuddenly newton Posts: 13,115member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post


    Well, that's that. Apple has failed and no one will use this system in the future to make things better.



    Publishers will shy away from the system entirely and it will be looked at by its competitors with a half-turn and a smug smile before they go back to their business.







    Doomed. If Steve Jobs was still with us, this wouldn't be allowed to happen. He would demand PERFECTION from these launch titles.



    Don't worry. Interactive books are still pretty new. It'll take authors a while to get the hang of it.
  • f1ferrarif1ferrari Posts: 223member
    Well, I was wondering what bad news would crop up before the earnings numbers to ratchet them back from all new highs. I wonder if this is enough though...
  • hobbithobbit Posts: 532member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by LighteningKid View Post


    You would have thought Apple would have screened the books and gone back to the publishers saying - "Hey, you can do better. You're not using our technology well. We want you to wow these people!



    That's probably exactly what happened.



    But who is going to pay for this?



    Creating interactive content on every page, is very expensive. And I doubt school book publishers have the content already available in a form that could be used interactively 'as is'.



    Classic chicken and egg situation.



    Apple: Publishers, please updated your books with interactivity - to make books more interesting and sell more.



    Publishers: We don't even know how many people will use these new textbooks. Let's frist sell them and make some money, then we can pay for making them interactive.





    Apple is the only one losing out here. If their effort fails, this will tarnish their image.

    If publishers fail to sell interactive books, well, they just go back to their old ways of selling real books. They don't care.





    So you could argue Apple should have paid for this. At least the first round.

    With all the billions in their bank Apple could have given each publisher a one or two book 'starter pack' where Apple helps to create interactive content and pays for it.

    Shame they didn't do that.
  • solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by hobBIT View Post


    Creating interactive content on every page, is very expensive. And I doubt school book publishers have the content already available in a form that could be used interactively 'as is'.



    Interactivity should only be used when it's an added benefit not simply because it can be done. I'm sure some buyers expected interactivity on all pages but that's ridiculous. The focus should be improved education not improved entertainment.
  • xavier83xavier83 Posts: 63member
    I agree Steve Jobs would of demanded perfection before launch.
  • maccherrymaccherry Posts: 924member
    This is sad. Tim Cook is f***** up.

    Apple should have had a full blown interactive text book, that was a mix of all the basic high school subjects, before launch. They had enough time. Time Cook better watch himself.
  • solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by xavier83 View Post


    I agree Steve Jobs would of demanded perfection before launch.



    I think memories of Apple with Jobs at the helm are quickly getting warped. Apple under Jobs was notorious for delivering well done but limited features in both HW and SW. High focus in core features without muddying the waters out of the gate. This is what iBooks Author looks like to me. On top of that, Jobs only stepped down as CEO less than 6(?) months ago sonits inconceivable to me that iBooks Author ? in the first post-Jobs special event ? does not have Jobs DNA all throughout.
  • hobbithobbit Posts: 532member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post


    The focus should be improved education not improved entertainment.



    Absolutely.



    Depends on a book's audience too.



    Like the review poster for the ABC book for kids, probably has a point that these should be interactive on every page. To support the fun, playful learning for kids.



    A history text book on the other hand might not need much.





    Yet that is also the challenge.

    I can imagine enlivening historic content by interactive maps of e.g. military advances over time, adding personal accounts (audio/video) of people involved, having 3D views of important historic artefacts, having interactive time lines which allow to compare parallel developments easily, etc.





    To be fair though any of this is not something that can be done quickly.

    Al Gore's book by Pushpoppress took many months - and those were pros doing it.

    Textbook publishers have (presumably) little in-house knowledge of multi-media content creation. How long will it take them to do it? Would they be willing to outsource it?



    Should Apple have waited another year before introducing this project - as that is likely the time it would take these publishers to update a few of their titles with more interactivity.





    On a side note:



    About 15-20 years ago Apple had a similar push on interactive learning with multi-media CDs.

    The Voyager Company developed some amazing titles. Documentaries, music lectures, historic accounts, virtual museum tours, etc. all based on HyperCard stacks.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voyager_Company



    It didn't catch on though and Voyager went out of business.

    I wonder if interactive textbooks will have a similar fate.



    Though it would be wonderful if some of these titles could be re-made into iPad interactive books. I wonder if the original data still exists...
  • addaboxaddabox Posts: 12,667member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by hobBIT View Post


    That's probably exactly what happened.



    But who is going to pay for this?



    Creating interactive content on every page, is very expensive. And I doubt school book publishers have the content already available in a form that could be used interactively 'as is'.



    Classic chicken and egg situation.



    Apple: Publishers, please updated your books with interactivity - to make books more interesting and sell more.



    Publishers: We don't even know how many people will use these new textbooks. Let's frist sell them and make some money, then we can pay for making them interactive.





    Apple is the only one losing out here. If their effort fails, this will tarnish their image.

    If publishers fail to sell interactive books, well, they just go back to their old ways of selling real books. They don't care.





    So you could argue Apple should have paid for this. At least the first round.

    With all the billions in their bank Apple could have given each publisher a one or two book 'starter pack' where Apple helps to create interactive content and pays for it.

    Shame they didn't do that.



    Engrossing, educational interactivity is a nascent art from. There probably aren't that many people or organizations with the programming, scholastic, publishing and design chops to pull it off well. Even given time and money, I'll wager most text book publishers just aren't set up to produce excellent interactive texts. What was Apple supposed to do, buy a publishing house outright?



    But what may happen is that something genuinely compelling is going to come from outside of the textbook industry, become a huge success, and drive the publishers to go back to the drawing board. In other words, competition in an industry that has seen precious little.
  • solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by hobBIT View Post


    Depends on a book's audience too.



    Like the review poster for the ABC book for kids, probably has a point that these should be interactive on every page. To support the fun, playful learning for kids.



    Certainly! Every letter should state the letter and have some animation when pressed. This is clearly to stimulate the child which in turn helps them retain the information better. We've had electronic versions of such things for decades.


    Mattel See 'n Say, 1965
  • addaboxaddabox Posts: 12,667member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by maccherry View Post


    This is sad. Tim Cook is f***** up.

    Apple should have had a full blown interactive text book, that was a mix of all the basic high school subjects, before launch. They had enough time. Time Cook better watch himself.



    Apple isn't a textbook publishing business. What you mean is that they should have somehow forced a textbook publisher to do excellent work, and all the time in the world can't guarantee that.



    They've put the tools out there. If they've done their job well, someone (not necessarily an incumbent textbook publisher) will produce something great-- something that is compelling, instructive, fun and engrossing.
  • maccherrymaccherry Posts: 924member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by addabox View Post


    Engrossing, educational interactivity is a nascent art from. There probably aren't that many people or organizations with the programming, scholastic, publishing and design chops to pull it off well. Even given time and money, I'll wager most text book publishers just aren't set up to produce excellent interactive texts. What was Apple supposed to do, buy a publishing house outright?



    But what may happen is that something genuinely compelling is going to come from outside of the textbook industry, become a huge success, and drive the publishers to go back to the drawing board. In other words, competition in an industry that has seen precious little.





    I for one could care less about the effing publishers. They are pimping public domain info anyway.

    It will have to be up to us as future/existing entrepreneur s to make incredible interactive book. The same way video games are made is the same way these new book HAVE to be made.
  • solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    I wonder if Ad Libs and/or Choose Your Own Adventure styles iBooks. I wonder if the format can dynamically alter the content in such a way that you could have multiple experiences from the same book.





    Quote:
    Originally Posted by maccherry View Post


    I for one could care less about the effing publishers. They are pimping public domain info anyway.



    With interactive books publishers have new ways to get personal info from users. I would think they would be very happy about this option.
  • hobbithobbit Posts: 532member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by addabox View Post


    What was Apple supposed to do, buy a publishing house outright?



    In an ideal world Apple should have arranged an agreement with Mike Matas and the team from Push Pop Press.



    Instead of (allegedly) forcing them to stop Push Pop Press interactive book production (and a resulting buyout by Facebook) they should have made the Push Pop Press team an integral part of Apple in charge of interactive textbooks.



    They could have been put in charge to help textbook publishers update their textbooks for the 21st century.

    Initially as a free service by Apple (a 'start-up investment' to get publishers and readers hooked, for a couple of books per publisher), later-on for a small cut of the proceeds.





    Shame this didn't happen.
  • drumrobotdrumrobot Posts: 31member
    Well personally, I absolutely love the iBook textbook I downloaded. Maybe try more than just one? I've also got a pdf of the textbook, and the two are nothing alike.
  • wurm5150wurm5150 Posts: 763member
    Just because you have a top of the line camera, DOESN'T MAKE YOU A GREAT PHOTOGRAPHER..



    Hopefully when "real" creative and imaginative people start using iBooks Author, then we'll see great interactive books..
  • ddawson100ddawson100 Posts: 381member
    The iPad at Work book is the first thing I downloaded when I wanted to see the new text books in action. It's free and I'm sure showcases some of the things that the platform can do. It does weave well in and out of static and dynamic content. Not flashy. Just makes sense.
  • digitalclipsdigitalclips Posts: 15,542member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by drumrobot View Post


    Well personally, I absolutely love the iBook textbook I downloaded. Maybe try more than just one? I've also got a pdf of the textbook, and the two are nothing alike.



    I agree with you, PDFs seem dead after these, this is more like The Daily Prophet
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