Apple's upcoming textbook event to focus on ebook distribution, not tools

Posted:
in iPod + iTunes + AppleTV edited January 2014


Rumors that Apple would be launching a "GarageBand for ebooks" to enable textbook makers to generate content and "digitally destroy" the textbook publishing market do not appear to be the actual focus of this week's education-oriented Apple media event.



Instead, according to report by Fortune writer Philip Elmer-Dewitt, Apple will be promoting new partnerships with publishers to use iBooks as a distribution platform in order to help push sales of iPads among schools.



"Apple is not trying to kill the incumbents," the report cited Inkling digital textbooks publisher Matt MacInnis as explaining. "They've learned their lesson from upending the music industry."



MacInnis had previously explained to Ars Technica that "practically speaking, Apple does not want to get into the content publishing business," but that site's report on Apple's plans kicked off speculation that the event would orbit around a new content production tool it dubbed "GarageBand for ebooks."



Apple's existing tools for ebooks



Digital ebook content is currently distributed in a few major formats. Apple's iBooks app supports both standard PDF documents and EPUB, an open format based on standard HTML and CSS.



EPUB ebooks are essentially self contained web pages, and can be created with virtually any web development tools. This includes Apple's Pages 09, which can output any word processing document into the EPUB format for use on iOS devices using the free iBooks app.



Apple's EPUB support in Pages and iBooks works with embedded video, automatically creates a Table of Contents for navigation, and allows iBook users to add notes to ebooks they are reading.



However, the EPUB format is fairly limited; Pages does not support creating more sophisticated ebooks using its page layout features such as including columns of text, headers and footers, and floating graphics, for example.



More complex documents can be exported for use in iBooks as a PDF, which can depict virtually anything. However, PDF files lack features specific to ebooks, such as support for read-aloud content that highlights text as a narrator voices the text. This support requires sound recordings to be included in the document, a feature exclusive to the website-like EPUB.



Users can manually create EPUB packages or use Apple's Automator or AppleScript to automate the publication of text, videos and graphics as self-contained ebook files. Third party software is also available to produce standard EPUB documents compatible with iBooks.



Kindle's proprietary ebooks



Last fall, Amazon introduced a new format for its Kindle ebooks, which only work on Kindle hardware and its multi platform Kindle apps, such as those it offers for iOS devices.



Amazon's new KF8 format uses HTML5 and CSS3 internally, and supports additional typography features basic EPUB doesn't, including the support for nestled tables created in CSS3 and text on background images











Publishers who create KF8 content must do so using Amazon's Kindle Publisher Tools and can then only sell it through the company's Kindle market, as it only works on devices using the Kindle app. This also subjects publishers to Amazon's terms of service.



Apple's iTunes Store vs App Store in content creation



Rather than focusing its announcement on a new production tool for creating new ebook content usable on iPad, Apple is likely to promote partnerships with textbook publishers, similar to how it partnered with music labels on iTunes without delivering all the music production software they might need to create the songs they sell.



Apple subsequently promoted iTunes' expansion into episodic TV shows, music videos and then theatrical movies with studio partnerships. And while Apple sells both Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro tools, there is no real link between the sale of content in iTunes and the creation of that content with Apple software.



Since the development of iOS, Apple has also partnered with software developers. In that market however, Apple not only delivered all the tools to create iOS apps, but also required that developers only use its tools rather than supporting existing software written using Java, Flash, or other middleware tools that bypassed Apple's Xcode.



In choosing open standards for iBooks content, Apple appears to be interested in allowing textbook developers to produce their own EPUB works they can then sell in the iBooks Store or through other venues, rather than following Amazon's strategy and forcing them to use a specific, non-standard format they can only sell through iBooks.



Remember iWeb?



MacInnis noted that "publishing something to EPUB is very similar to publishing web content. Remember iWeb? That iWeb code didn't just get flushed down the toilet—I think you'll see some of [that code] repurposed."



However, Apple's now discontinued iWeb was not a serious web development tool; it was essentially a variant of Pages that enabled users to lay out content in an easy to use Keynote-style and then generate HTML that could render the compilation in a browser. The HTML code it generated was bloated and messy however, far from being an elegant solution to delivering textbooks.



Apple does, however, already deliver a modern HTML5 web development tool for creating interactive content: iAd Producer. That tool is designed to create self contained, dynamic interactive experiences that are rendered as iAd content and distributed by Apple through third party iOS apps as a way to help monetize their mobile software.











iAd Producer 2 is a visual designer for building iAd presentations that incorporate video playback, CoverFlow views, and other animated, interactive elements without knowing how to write code.



Adapting iAd Producer for the purpose of creating interactive ebook content would be relatively simple, as it includes both easy to use automated publisher tools suited to designers and more powerful JavaScript-based interactivity that web programmers can tap into to build more complex and original work using standard web development technologies.



Apple is also overdue for introducing new Mac OS X editions of its iWorks suite, making it likely that it could soon unveil a new version of Pages with enhanced EPUB support (keeping it up to date with the latest advancements of the EPUB open specification), or alternatively, augment its next version of iWork with a new title based upon iAd Producer but optimized for creating interactive EPUB documents and web apps.



Apple also has yet to deliver a version of iBooks that can display iBooks Store and other EPUB content on its desktop Macs.

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 22
    I personally believe Pages is the way Apple will go with this.



    I feel it will leverage the Desktop Publishing aspect of Pages in order to create the books with more simpler versions being done via the word processing side of Pages.



    Really looking forward to seeing what is going to happen here.
  • Reply 2 of 22
    Well, that sucks. Hope this one's wrong. I want to create beautiful, rich-content ePubs and I want to do it easily.
  • Reply 3 of 22
    What the hell are they having an event for if it's not to announce creation tools? They could've just sent out a press release that they've partnered with publishers to distribute textbooks..
  • Reply 4 of 22
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,215member
    That's a shame if true.
  • Reply 5 of 22
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by darrynlowe View Post


    I personally believe Pages is the way Apple will go with this.



    I feel it will leverage the Desktop Publishing aspect of Pages in order to create the books with more simpler versions being done via the word processing side of Pages.



    Really looking forward to seeing what is going to happen here.



    I hope not and it doesn't seem like a very "Applesque" move either.



    Pages is barely serviceable as a word processor and layout tool at the moment. It would be sad indeed if they bolted on this functionality without revamping the entire underlying product first.



    All of us avid Pages users have been hoping for some kind of significant update for years now. It would be nice if they got focussed on making a decent update for writers first, especially for the iOS version.



    All it would take if for Microsoft to port even a half-assed version of Word to iOS for Pages to die a quick death in the marketplace. Personally I'd like to see it succeed and do not understand why Apple seems so intent on not doing anything about the situation.



    It reminds me of the iChat fiasco (among others).
  • Reply 6 of 22
    What if Apple just found a way to actually let its customers produce content that supplants Adobe Flash content?



    PS in addition I hope the published format will be viewable both from MacOSX and iOS, in contrast with the current ePub format.
  • Reply 7 of 22
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by VanFruniken View Post


    What if Apple just found a way to actually let its customers produce content that supplants Adobe Flash content?



    Then it would be an updated iWeb, not something to do with ePubs. Personally, I think Apple should combine the iWeb finesse with the? crap, lost it. Hummingbird? Sparrow? It has a hummingbird for its icon; that one HTML5 content creator? to create the TRUE new Internet.
  • Reply 8 of 22
    The cat is out he bag. Apple is going to screw the hell out of the traditional text book industry. GOOD!

    I'm tired if carrying around 50lbs of books all day.

    Besides, outside the methodology of some writers,everything is public domain anyway.
  • Reply 9 of 22
    You've correctly identified most of the tools that Apple could enhance (iAd Producer, Pages and the Automator tools showcased by padilicious.com). However, there is more. Take a look at what the Open University has done in iTunes U. They have developed XML-based workflows and systems that might become an important part of EPUB 3 production systems for textbook publishers.
  • Reply 10 of 22
    conrailconrail Posts: 489member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post


    Well, that sucks. Hope this one's wrong. I want to create beautiful, rich-content ePubs and I want to do it easily.



    What makes you think apple is interested in you being anything other than a content consumer?



    Instead of saying think different, all apple users need to say now is shut up and take my money!
  • Reply 11 of 22
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Conrail View Post


    What makes you think apple is interested in you being anything other than a content consumer?



    The fact that that's so wrong it isn't even humorous?
  • Reply 12 of 22
    blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 1,917member
    Lots of weird quotes in that Fortune article:
    "Apple is not trying to kill the incumbents," MacInnis told us. "They've learned their lesson from upending the music industry."

    Um...yeah... they learned that upending an industry can be incredibly profitable for Apple. What exactly would Apple want to have done differently with respect to the music industry?
    According to Foresman, Apple is set to unveil "a GarageBand for e-books," which he describes as "a simple app that makes the process [of creating interactive textbooks] as easy as creating a song in GarageBand."
    and
    MacInnis does expect Apple to unveil new tools for creating iPad textbooks, along with a new content repository to make e-textbooks easily available to teachers. But the tools are not a "GarageBand for e-books."

    So he's saying that Apple *will* be releasing new tools, but that the tools will not be like garageband, where garage band is defined as a tool that makes content creation easy. So what, this new tool is going to be a pain in the a$$ to use?



    Bizarre.
  • Reply 13 of 22
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member
    What exactly is the definition of Enhanced EPUB?



    I read that people have actually succeeded in running some jQuery functions in iBooks but is there actually a list of javascript functions and css tags that it officially supports? I thinking we are going to be doing a lot of hand coding.
  • Reply 14 of 22
    sennensennen Posts: 1,465member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post


    Well, that sucks. Hope this one's wrong. I want to create beautiful, rich-content ePubs and I want to do it easily.



    Same here. For eMags as well. The choice between Adobe's pricing structure and the hotchpotch of free tools isn't great.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post


    Then it would be an updated iWeb, not something to do with ePubs. Personally, I think Apple should combine the iWeb finesse with the… crap, lost it. Hummingbird? Sparrow? It has a hummingbird for its icon; that one HTML5 content creator… to create the TRUE new Internet.



    It's called "Hype".
  • Reply 15 of 22
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by sennen View Post


    Hype.



    Yeah, it was kind of overhyped for how well it worked, but it? *gets things thrown at him*



    Thanks.
  • Reply 16 of 22
    chris_cachris_ca Posts: 2,543member
    Quote:

    Apple's upcoming textbook event to focus on ebook distribution, not tools



    Since this article debunks the rumor about the event NOT being about tools, that is all we will discuss in this article.

  • Reply 17 of 22
    cmfcmf Posts: 62member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Blastdoor View Post


    Lots of weird quotes in that Fortune article:
    "Apple is not trying to kill the incumbents," MacInnis told us. "They've learned their lesson from upending the music industry."

    Um...yeah... they learned that upending an industry can be incredibly profitable for Apple. What exactly would Apple want to have done differently with respect to the music industry?
    According to Foresman, Apple is set to unveil "a GarageBand for e-books," which he describes as "a simple app that makes the process [of creating interactive textbooks] as easy as creating a song in GarageBand."
    and
    MacInnis does expect Apple to unveil new tools for creating iPad textbooks, along with a new content repository to make e-textbooks easily available to teachers. But the tools are not a "GarageBand for e-books."

    So he's saying that Apple *will* be releasing new tools, but that the tools will not be like garageband, where garage band is defined as a tool that makes content creation easy. So what, this new tool is going to be a pain in the a$$ to use?



    Bizarre.



    The reason why they won't try a complete takeover from publishers is due to their success in music, which began as a strength, but now works against them. Others in media (movie studios, etc.) saw what happened and have since been much tougher to negotiate with - even if Apple does eventually come out ahead.



    With regard to the potential for new development/creation tools, I'd welcome it, but it doesn't seem like this is really a large scale announcement suited for that. As others have mentioned, iAd Producer is a better building block they can use to encourage interactive development. The only way i could see them doing the same kind of thing with Pages is to create a separate eBook mode a la the Word Processing and Page Layout ones from earlier versions.
  • Reply 18 of 22
    cmfcmf Posts: 62member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by sennen View Post


    Same here. For eMags as well. The choice between Adobe's pricing structure and the hotchpotch of free tools isn't great.



    It's called "Hype".



    What I'd REALLY like to see a some point is Apple take the work done with Xcode, Dashboard, and iAd Producer to create a more full featured web tool. They've gone down this path before with iWeb, but that was too limited and the code generated from it was UGLY; leveraging the pro developer tools is a better way to go if you want to make something that's really usable.
  • Reply 19 of 22
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Prof. Peabody View Post


    I hope not and it doesn't seem like a very "Applesque" move either.



    Pages is barely serviceable as a word processor and layout tool at the moment. It would be sad indeed if they bolted on this functionality without revamping the entire underlying product first.



    All of us avid Pages users have been hoping for some kind of significant update for years now. It would be nice if they got focussed on making a decent update for writers first, especially for the iOS version.



    All it would take if for Microsoft to port even a half-assed version of Word to iOS for Pages to die a quick death in the marketplace. Personally I'd like to see it succeed and do not understand why Apple seems so intent on not doing anything about the situation.



    It reminds me of the iChat fiasco (among others).



    I HATE Word. It's clunky and slow and over complex for what it does.



    Most people don't even use a quarter of its supposed power.



    What do writers need that Pages doesn't supply? I mean isn't it all about text for the most part? Don't take that as a knock I'm completely ignorant as to what is required in the writing world.



    For my needs Pages is far better than Word and Numbers is far better than Excel. Pages can only go up. Word has pretty much stagnated.
  • Reply 20 of 22
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post


    Then it would be an updated iWeb, not something to do with ePubs. Personally, I think Apple should combine the iWeb finesse with the? crap, lost it. Hummingbird? Sparrow? It has a hummingbird for its icon; that one HTML5 content creator? to create the TRUE new Internet.



    Hype is the application you're looking for.
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