Enhanced Editions with iBooks

Yesterday, fellow author Jennifer Skully and I met on the Apple campus to beta test some authoring software for the smart folks @iBooks. Neither of us knew what to expect … but we both came away madly excited!

Those of you who use iThings probably know about iBooks Author, a nifty product that allows you to lay out gorgeous books meant for reading on iPad and iPhone. But the iBooks folks are expanding far beyond fixed-page nonfiction texts like science books and cookbooks, and moving now into reflowable fiction templates for writers like Jennifer and me, with fabulous opportunities for enhancement.

What does this mean for the Magnificent Devices books?

Books can be enhanced with movies, audio files, and images. Just imagine what I can do with this:

  • I can record an intro welcoming readers to the book, and giving a little background information on how it came about.
  • I can include a little narration, either reading an opening paragraph myself, or including a small portion of the audiobook performed by the peerless Fiona Hardingham. Once I figure out how the licensing works for that.
  • A picture gallery might turn up showing the landscape through which the characters are moving. I’m thinking particularly of poor Gloria in Book 10, making her way through the Weird West.
  • Along with the excerpt for the next book, which you normally find in the back, I can embed a book trailer similar to the one I did for A Lady of Integrity.
  • And I can do a live author bio, either as a sound file or as a movie, talking not only about myself (which might put people to sleep), but also about the series in general and thanking my readers for joining me on the journey (which might keep them awake).

I can’t wait to get in and play around with this. The iBooks folks assure me that these files will also work on other tablets, which is different from the fixed-template books that are only viewable on iPad and iPhone. It’s an exciting step forward—don’t you just love technology?

4 thoughts on “Enhanced Editions with iBooks”

  1. Beth Barany (@Beth_Barany)Beth Barany (@Beth_Barany)

    Love it! Thanks for sharing this, Shelley! What exciting possibilities for your books and all of ours! Sorry I missed it. (I was planning on coming.) Car troubles.

  2. beaujohnson48beaujohnson48

    I’ve used iBooksAuthor to create non-fiction and handbooks so far and one fixed page fiction work. The single (iPad) viewing platform was the biggest drawback. I’m glad to hear that is being overcome. I would really like to see it export to regular epub files, also. I’ll have to check for updates to the program and especially the fiction templates.
    Thanks for the update.

  3. Jan ThompsonJan Thompson

    Shelley – Do you know whether they’re going to upgrade iBooks to allow background music? Can’t do that yet in iBooks… AFAIK.

  4. Peter SpenserPeter Spenser

    Actually, iBooks, the display engine that Apple uses to show EPUB-format books, has been capable of showing audio, video, pop-up notes, fixed layout books, and all sorts of fancy stuff (some of which are part of EPUB3) for several years now. EPUB expert Elizabeth Castro and I (among others) have been toying with it for awhile. There were two problems: not every other EPUB display engine (Kobo, Nook, etc.) was yet capable of displaying those things, and… all of that stuff had to be hand coded, which was tedious, to say the least.

    iBooks Author was Apple’s first foray into making the whole process easier. Though a lot of people complained that it was “Apple only” it succeeded in what it set out to do: make accessible the process of creating enhanced books by people who, though they might be highly educated, were not programmers, people such as teachers. The reason that it was only usable on Apple devices was that, if an iBooks Author book did not display correctly on a Nook or a Kobo device, who would get blamed? Nook? Kobo? No. People would yell all over the place that Apple had released a defective product. Apple knew this and wisely decided to avoid that problem altogether.

    Now that more and more display engines from other companies are capable of displaying more and more of the features that are part of the EPUB3 specification, the expansion of iBooks Author to have the ability to create enhanced books for general distribution is a viable project. I and many others look forward to it.

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