iBooks Author
iBooks Author reinvents textbooks Apple

Apple took New York City and the world by storm Thursday by launching tools that would revolutionize the education sector as well as the publishing industry. The technology giant unveiled iBooks 2 and an expanded iTunes U app, but what really amazed the invite-only crowd was iBooks Author, a custom e-book creation platform.

The free, new Mac app, iBooks Author, is available from Thursday and it has opened up a new era where anybody can create their e-book for inclusion in the iBookstore.

The best thing about iBooks Author is that it is extremely easy to use. It contains templates for design layouts and you can create an e-book in a WYSIWYG format, much as you create a Keynote presentation or a Pages document.

You can add text and images by simply dragging and dropping and if you want to jazz up the e-book, simply by using the code in JavaScript and HTML, you can create interactive widgets to add videos, keynote presentations and interactive photo galleries.

And, when the e-book is ready, the author can also preview the e-book using the iPad over a Wi-Fi network (which allows instant feedback about whether or not something works the way you'd expect it to), before submitting it in the iBookstore for approval.

Apple didn't say specifically how much the author can charge for the e-book created using iBooks Author, but the company did say that all the textbooks will be capped at $14.99 or less. In other words, it's a boon for educators, wannabe authors and small publishers.

There is no upfront fee to create the e-book titles and it must be acknowledged that it is a total miracle in terms of time savings (as Roger Rosner, Apple VP for Productivity Software, rightly said).

No wonder people who have tried the app are already gushing about it:

Very promising for the future of reading. I can only hope this is rapidly adopted. - Michael King

Awesome. Finally the iBooks store has an app that anyone can use to create content to upload to the iBookstore!!! - Aaron Myler

Amazing! I've only had it for 90 seconds and I've already published a book. Incredible! - by David Stauffer

However, it must be mentioned that the new iBooks Author has several limitations:

[1] If you're planning to sell your e-book, you must also submit a sample version (free e-books do not require the sample version).

[2] The file size limit for all books published to the iBookstore using iBooks Author is 2GB. This is a serious limitation as many textbooks available through iBookstore are around 2GB (e.g., McGraw Hill's Biology and Geometry) or even more (Pearson's Biology - 2.77GB).

[3] Apple will charge 30 percent for sale of all e-books created using iBooks Author.

[4] The e-books created with iBooks Author may not be sold as part of a subscription-based product or service. In other words, the e-book must be distributed free of charge or made available for sale via the iBookstore.

[5] The e-books must be published in iBookstore in ePub format. However, you can export your e-book from iBooks Author as a PDF, text, or iBooks document for you to distribute outside the iBookstore.

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

[7] You CANNOT sell the e-book created using iBooks Author on any other Web site, except iBookstore. But if it's a free e-book, you can distribute it through non-iBookstore channels.

[8] Don't go OD on 3D models in your e-book, although iBooks Author supports it. The reason is that the original iPad can handle only 3D objects with less than 20,000 moderately textured polygons, while the iPad 2 can support 3D objects with up to 50,000 moderately textured polygons. Anything more and it'll be a nightmare as more complicated objects may result in an increased load time, slower behavior, or a blurry image.

[9] Though the publishing app is free in the Mac app store, you'll need OS X Lion to run the app.

[10] Are you a school or college-going bookworm? Then you're in trouble. With the smallest textbook at 793MB and most textbooks averaging 1.25GB, your iPad may soon be groaning for space, depending on your course load.

The iBooks Author is compatible with the new iBooks 2.0 app, which spices up the world of e-books. Thanks to iBooks 2.0, e-books will no longer be just dull, digital versions of the paperbacks as you'll now be able to flip (or rather swipe) through colorful, full-screen images, interact with 3D objects, watch videos, highlight a passage (with different color options), scribble a note (and transform them into flashcards), look up a word and do more.

No wonder, giant publishing houses such as McGraw-Hill, Pearson, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt have joined Apple's bandwagon and selections from DK Publishing and the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation will be on offer.

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