First thoughts on iBooks Author

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.

Author has templates. You can drag files into the system, pour them into a template, and add interactive elements, such as movies.  Keynote files can be dragged in.  If you can write Javascript and HTML, you can create your own interactive widgets.

Among the other goodies:
  • 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

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
  • 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.


My Arisia schedule

Arisia is one of the leading SF/anime/gaming conventions in the country, and it takes place in Boston, at the Westin Waterfront, Jan 13-16.  You want to be there. 

I certainly will be.  Here's my schedule:

Interstitial Fiction: Dancing Between Genres     Griffin     Fri 7:00 PM
With Joy Marchand, John Bowker, Julia Rios, Erik Amundsen
Interstitial fiction is writing made in the interstices between genres and categories. It is art that flourishes in the borderlands between different disciplines, mediums, and cultures. It crosses borders, written by people who refuse to be constrained by category labels. Some favorite examples will be discussed here.

Reading: Palmer, Smith & Schneyer     Quincy    Fri 10:00 PM
Authors Suzanne Palmer, Sarah Smith, and Ken Schneyer will read selections from their works.  There will be chocolate.
Folks:  What should I read from?  You have your choice:  THE OTHER SIDE OF DARK, a bit out of the Shakespeare poem, or something from the new TITANIC book.  (No, it's not finished yet.  Grrr.  Don't bother me.)

So, What's New?   Griffin     Sat 10:00 AM 
With James Cambias, Jeff Hecht, Shira Lipkin, Judah Sher
Nanotechnology is now an industry. Cloned animals can be bought online. Robots are getting smarter and more lifelike. Science is telling us that the future could be different in ways (vanished glaciers, droughts and floods, and reduced biodiversity) that are materializing perhaps even faster than AI and the Singularity. Is science fiction paying proper attention to the best information available on the future? What is new and on the horizon that SF should look out for? How could it change SF?

Panel in the Pool    In the hotel pool, duh   Sat 11:30 AM
With Jeff Warner, Michelle d'Entremont
What would life be like on an entirely aqueous planet? Could intelligent life evolve? What about space-faring intelligence? Come discuss such questions in our own aqueous environment of the hotel pool. Swimsuits required!
I have absolutely nothing interesting to say on this panel (I think)--but fun is fun.

Don't Quit Your Day Job    Adams    Sat 1:00 PM
With Suzanne Palmer, KT Pinto, Jennifer Pelland, and Joshua Palmatier/Benjamin Tate
Hal Clement, Alice Sheldon (aka James Tiptree Jr), and so many other authors kept working their mundane jobs while writing. What can a day job bring to your art? Should going full time be the goal?
Clearly, this is the Panel of Persons whose name begins with a P.
Don't quit your day job.  Honest.  Get a day job you like and share your successes with your friends there.

Writer's Clinic    Otis    Sat 4:00 PM
With Barry Longyear, Elaine Isaak, Genevieve Iseult Eldredge, Resa Nelson
Have you hit a road block in the writing of your story? Are the characters not acting the way you want them to? Do your action scenes read more like exposition? Do you have questions on dialogue? At this small, informal, information session, authors answer your questions with an eye toward getting your story unstuck. Sign-up will be at the con and limited to 10 people.
This should be GREAT.  Barry, Elaine, and Resa are all wonderful editors--I don't know Genevieve yet.  I'm not so bad myself.

Winter Is Coming      Douglas    Sat 5:30 PM
With Dyschordia, Night Stalker, Tim Lieder, and Randee Dawn
George R.R. Martin's *A Song of Ice and Fire* is a blockbuster in every way. Come discuss the biggest series in fantasy (literally)! We'll be discussing the series through *A Dance With Dragons,* so 'ware the spoilers!

Self-Publishing Snares     Hancock    Sat 8:30 PM
With Raven Kaldera, Gordon Linzner, Jaime Garmendia, Everett Soares
What are the things you need to look out for when self-publishing? Do you really need an editor, cover artist, or graphic designer? If so, how do you find them? Who are the reputable companies to deal with and which are the ones to avoid? How do you know?
Learn about HTML5.  Learn about writers' cooperatives.  This could be your future.
(See also the Autograph Session with Gordon and me on Sunday.)

At the Project Backup table   Sun 10 AM-12 noon
The Project aims to make help against harassment visible and available, to create safer environments, to help women to support other women and men to challenge other men. We are specifically interested in making sff, anime, comic, and other cons safer spaces.
Thanks for organizing this, Shira Lipkin!

Autograph - Lieder, Linzner, & Smith    Galleria - Autograph Space Writing   Sun 1:00 PM
Autograph session with Tim Lieder, Gordon Linzner and Sarah Smith.
Two of us were on the Saturday self-publishing panel, and Gordon has been publisher of Space & Time Magazine for 40 years, so drop by and talk some more about self-publishing.  Get a bookmark signed.  Have some more chocolate.

The Future of School     Otis  Sun 2:30 PM
With Wraithe, Sean Sullivan, Ovid, Mike Bonet
Science fiction writers have often written about changes that technology might make to education, from the students "desks" in Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game to Heinlein's observations and critiques of education in his juvenile fiction. What kinds of alternate education exist now? How does emerging technology effect the learners of tomorrow? Will school still be out for summer?
I'm talking more about education, which is going to be one of the big innovation drivers of the 21st century. My day job is with Pearson, the leading innovator of educational solutions--and I love my day job.