I downloaded iBooks Author and I've played around with inputting a fairly crunchy eBook I happened to have recently created, using other production tools. (That's A New Shakespearean Poem, for those of you who have been following this blog. ANSP has footnotes, verse, and all sorts of non-standard goodies.)
First, it is lovely and easy to use. I never want to use another production tool. I tried using PDF input, just to see what horrors would ensue. Mercy, it worked, though I had to re-format italics, some special formatting (verse), and footnotes.
It also takes Word as input, although I haven't played around with that yet.
Among the other goodies:
Both iBooks and iBooks Author are free. iBooks Author was something like a 165MB download and runs reasonably well in my not-too-high-powered MacBook Air.
“The world will be filled to the sky with easy-to-make but terrible books,” a blogger comments. “And any individual book will be lost in a sea of crap.”
There is a new Textbooks area in iTunes, and several textbooks are already there, as well as Al Gore's book.
Bloggers are already making the negative points that
- Glossary creation tool
- Automatic tables of contents
- Every-word dictionary definition
- Slideshows, video, 3D molecule viewing, whatever you like, with a single image for placeholder
- A good book still takes significant money to produce, especially if it contains interactive elements (Al Gore’s book cost over $1M).
- It's far from clear how much less a textbook will really cost. Only 13% of textbook costs are actual post-master production costs
- ...or how it will be maintained (iTexts belong to the owner for life, and as we all know, maintenance is a big expense)
- ...or whether this won't widen the gap between haves and have-nots in education (yes, especially in K-12 school districts)
- ...and many more issues
But Apple is clearly aiming to shake up, not just educational publishing, but education. Their market strategy is to link iTexts with iTunes U--which will allow professors to link directly from the book to podcasted lectures on iTunes U.
More fun all the time.