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January 19, 2012 AT 12:00 pm

iBooks Author

Pt 483

Mac App Store – iBooks Author.

Now anyone can create stunning iBooks textbooks, cookbooks, history books, picture books, and more for iPad. All you need is an idea and a Mac. Start with one of the Apple-designed templates that feature a wide variety of page layouts. Add your own text and images with drag-and-drop ease. Use Multi-Touch widgets to include interactive photo galleries, movies, Keynote presentations, 3D objects, and more. Preview your book on your iPad at any time. Then submit your finished work to the iBookstore with a few simple steps. And before you know it, you’re a published author.

We downloaded it and we’re checking it out. Apple is getting in to text books.


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10 Comments

  1. The 3d objects part is interesting. I wonder if you will be able quickly create books to give clients as project updates or if you can only publish to the store? I use Acrobat X to send out viewable 3D files now but its clumsy and expensive.

  2. The 3D widget in iBooks Author only lets you embed a COLLADA .dae file. I hadn’t ever heard of this format, but it seems to be supported by a quite a few 3D modeling programs. (It is one of the few export options built into the free version of Google Sketchup. I was able to make one in a few seconds.)

    The Export menu option offers three export choices:

    * iBooks: You can only publish in this format through the iBookstore.
    * PDF
    * Text

    So, unfortunately, it looks like you can’t send an iBook directly to your client. The other restriction mentioned is that due to performance reasons, your 3D model should have less than 20,000 triangles for iPad 1 users, and 50,000 triangles for iPad 2 users.

  3. Actually, I take that back. I think you could send these files to your clients without using the iBookstore.

    After selecting Export to iBooks, it creates a directory with 3 files in it: a .ibooks file, a metadata.xml file, and a .jpg file of the book cover. You can take the .ibooks file and import it into an iTunes Library and sync it to an iPad. (Or, I assume, email it to a client so they can load it on their iPad.) The book looks fine on the iPad, although I can’t interact with the 3D model I embedded. I don’t know if I did something wrong, or if this is a problem with my iTunes not being updated to 10.5.3 yet.

  4. Adafruit should totally get into the book/textbook business.

  5. So you wish to publish things neither I nor anyone else without some kind of proprietary hardware or reader program will never be able to access?

    I don’t see “open” anywhere in the system. Instead of an HTML5 page accessible to everyone, everywhere?

    It is a very beautiful prison which they call a “walled garden”. That it has razor wire and that you can’t get out and have your own cell (will you be able to link to other books?) gives it away.

  6. @tz – we said “We downloaded it and we’re checking it out”.

  7. Roger Parkinson

    Something more open would be more interesting.
    epub format is pretty good, although I don’t know about 3d options.

  8. What tz said.

    Also, this: http://www.zdnet.com/blog/bott/apples-mind-bogglingly-greedy-and-evil-license-agreement/4360

    Short version: if you want to give your text away for free, Apple will let you. If you want money for it, Apple may deny you the right to publish it on their device and you can’t publish it elsewhere either…

    So, thanks but no.

  9. OK, the license thing sucks, and I’m hoping Apple changes that, because the authoring tool is pretty easy to use if you are familiar with Keynote (or other iWork apps).

    The file format doesn’t look particularly proprietary. It seems to be based on EPUB, which is basically a zip file with XML documents + Media files inside. (Much like OpenOffice files are.) Flipping through the format, I think someone could very easily create a program that exported an iBook to HTML.

    I downloaded both Nook for Mac and Calibre for Mac to see if they could open the output of iBooks Author. For both, I had to rename the .ibooks file to .epub.

    Nook for Mac (labeled "beta") opened it with no complaints, but it mangled the beginning and ending pages which had some background graphics. The cover preview was also wrong. The section headings and text in between looked fine, so you could certainly read an iBook on a Nook, although some of the graphics and all of the interactive elements would not work.

    Calibre got the book cover preview right, but the title and introduction had the text all over the place. It was until you got into the sections that the text looked OK. So I’d say that things are almost there, but some debugging would be needed to understand what attributes Apple is using that Calibre isn’t rendering.

    Nevertheless, I suspect the export to HTML website approach is ultimately the best way to faithfully translate one of these new interactive iBooks into another format. Of course, until that EULA provision is removed, I wouldn’t put much effort into it.

    I’m also intrigued by the idea of being able to embed arbitrary Javascript and HTML "widgets" into these EPUB-like files. That opens up the door for some interesting interactive features.

  10. quote: “Short version: if you want to give your text away for free, Apple will let you. If you want money for it, Apple may deny you the right to publish it on their device and you can’t publish it elsewhere either…”

    Wrong — you are free to publish it elsewhere as much as you want. You just can’t format it using the iBooks Authoring tool to publish it elsewhere. It is a publishing vehicle. Would a major (physical) publisher format, typeset and layout your book, then give you the printing press files so that you could publish it with their competitor? I highly doubt it.

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