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.


  1. Found your post by Googling for 'footnotes ibook author'..

    I pasted in all the footnotes of an existing Word doc into a new 'chapter' as Endnotes which means that they are not automatically linked. Some kind of popup text would be preferable. How did you address the footnotes issue? Thanks!

  2. I agree. So far, I've done the same thing--put the footnotes into a new Endnotes chapter. I linked them with cross-references. The material to be footnoted has a link to the footnote. The footnote in turn has a link back to the material that is being footnoted. I named them in pairs: may_bib_info, may_bib_info_back.

    I have 153 footnotes for this puppy and the process is Not Fun. The Author tools for it are OK but any list with 300 items gets unwieldy.

    Have you figured out how to edit styles?

  3. You're a better person than I -- you seriously did all this by hand? I stopped after putting in links to the first half dozen or so, just to see how navigation would work on the iPad. If only raw html were allowed you could scriptify this prior to importing, but I guess not. More likely, we'll have to wait a few months for this to be included in an update. Still, amazing that this was not in the release version.