iBooks Author experiments

Last week was a week for conversations with various individuals and companies about fixed-format epub, KF8, Adobe DPS, book apps and their various merits, capabilities, pitfalls etc. During those conversations I was reminded of iBooks Author. I downloaded it ages ago, but had only given it a cursory glance.

So over the weekend I took it for a test drive. (Please note: I’m using my own photographs and made-up or placeholder text. The ‘book’ is a test of the program’s abilities.)

On the plus side iBooks Author is free to download.
But on the minus side it only works on a Mac running Lion and above. Which leaves a lot of potential users out in the cold.

Another minus (for some people) is that if you want to sell any books you create, you must do it on the iBooks Store. But you can easily test them on your iPad, give them freely away, er, free, and you can make PDFs (although they won’t have any interactivity and I haven’t tested the quality).

Anyway:

When you open iBooks Author you’re presented with a number of templates to choose from. They range from photo book layouts to text-heavy ‘classic’ layouts, recipes etc. You seem to have to choose a layout to start with, but they are all completely customisable. The ‘basic’ layout is probably the one to go for if you want to go it alone.

This is a screen shot of the iBooks Author with my test book in progress. Note it implies that you have to import images through iPhoto. You don’t. You can drag and drop from desktop or Bridge. There’s a pull-out drawer of styles on the right and page thumbnails on the left.

Screenshot of iBooks Author

Screenshot of iBooks Author

You test your book by hooking computer to iPad with the iBooks app open and clicking Preview. The book is downloaded to iBooks and is completely functional ā€“ except it has ‘Proof’ written across the corner of the cover. (The book next to it is Animals from Miles Kelly.)

iBooks library screen

iBooks library screen

This is a chapter opener, with the thumbnail table of contents along the bottom. The table of contents is automatically generated and updated.

Chapter opener and table of contents thumbnails along the bottom.

Chapter opener and table of contents thumbnails along the bottom

If you work with InDesign, Quark or even Pages, Word, etc it’s all very familiar territory. It’s also quite similar in a lot of ways to Blurb’s BookSmart program.

The interesting stuff is the interactivity that is possible through widgets. The program comes with a selection of these which include galleries, scrolling boxes, interactive questions, media (video and audio), inserting Keynote presentations, pop-up labels, 3-d images and HTML functionality.

Gallery. Tap the thumbnails to view

Gallery. Tap the thumbnails to view

Embedded video has to be in .m4v format.

Embedded video has to be in .m4v format

Zoom-ins

Zoom-ins

Zoom-in zoomed in.

Zoom-in zoomed in

You can also make HTML widgets in programs like Hype, and I found a site called Bookry which allows you to create all sorts of widgets. I made a wordsearch to go in this book.

Wordsearch widget from Bookry.

Wordsearch widget from Bookry

Word search poster image

Wordsearch poster image

These are multiple choice question widgets. You can have standard text or picture questions with up to 6 options or drag label or image to target questions. It will show you the correct answer and total your answers at the end of the test.

Questions widget. Drag the answer to the correct spot

Questions widget. Drag the answer to the correct spot

Questions widget. Drag the image thumbnail to the correct spot.

Questions widget. Drag the image thumbnail to the correct spot

I’m still playing with this, but I really like it and think it could have interesting possibilities if you’re happy to be limited to Apple platforms.

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