Apple iBooks textbooks event at the Guggenheim New York

Ibooks author

In January 2012 Apple had their Apple iBooks author and textbook event in the Guggenheim Museum in New York. It was a small event, but I think in some ways it has the possibility of far reaching consequences for the publishing industry. When you consider the destructive force that Apple have been able to exert, to change the music industry and start to have an effect upon the movie industry, then it is surprising that books and the publishing of textbooks have not been looked at sooner. We now have Apple iBooks which will allow students and in fact also many non-students to read all sorts of books, including textbooks on the iPad 2. If the iPad 3 gets the high-resolution retina display, then these multimedia textbooks will be even more amazing. At the moment we have no idea about when will the iPad 3 be announced or available, but the rumour mill is turning over a storm of hot air. These rumours will be flying left, right and centre right up until the day before the iPad 3 will be released. It looks like we will see a lot of iPads in schools.

The large textbook publishing companies ready to sell through the Apple iBook store

At the Guggenheim Museum, Apple launched iBooks author and a new version of iBooks on the iPad along with announcements concerning iTunes U. This announcement could be a iPad game changer for education. While the textbooks with the interactive technology, that are going to be available from some of the large publishing houses such as, McGraw-Hill Pearson and DK Publishing there are many people getting quite excited about some of the possibilities for self publishing with the iBooks author application, which was made available for free. Directly from the event the iBooks author Apple application became available for anyone to download and start making some amazing interactive iPad textbooks. I downloaded the Apple iBooks author application as soon as I could myself, and I have already created a couple of iBooks. I have even created an account for myself to be able to publish those iBooks that I create. Unfortunately, due to the restrictions of the licence, I am only able to make the iBooks available for free. I will have to set up a different account if I want to be able to sell my iBooks through the Apple iBooks store.

Demo textbooks and Apple iBooks textbooks available for sale already

On the day of the event there was the new iBooks application available for the iPad. This new iBooks application works on the iPad 1 and iPad 2 and of course Apple will have a view to seeing this application being used heavily on the new iPad 3. There was a demo textbook available called ‘Life on Earth’ which I have downloaded, but have yet to properly explore. Also the way it works with the Apple iBook store, is that the publishers are required to put up a sample which could be perhaps a chapter. I will be downloading some of these to get ideas to use in the iBooks that I will be creating myself. It will be interesting to see the techniques that are used in these books to best show off the content of the book.

Comics getting in on the act

A producer of comics has made a sample iBook in which he shows off a selection of comic strops that he has produced. The other way to get these works out to your readers and fans is to put the iBook in a place where it can be downloaded. This fits in okay with the fact that these books can only be given away and not be sold, unless they go through the iBook store. So this comic which is called ‘Waking up with the Diesel Sweeties’ have been downloaded a ton of times in just a few day. The book contains all of the comics from the month of December of 2011 and has been put up in order that the author might try out the application from Apple, iBooks Author and also so that his fans can read his comics and give feedback. All of the comics are fitted into the book in one single chapter and you can scroll through the chapter using the scroll bar at the bottom of the book. When you tap on a page, it opens up to full screen and to go from full-screen to the chapter view, you do the pinch gesture.

What would be good would be the ability to zoom into areas, if this comic was of the type of comic that had areas of the drawing with small details images or text. That is not available in this particular comic, although I think that it could be possible to have this facility using HTML 5. It does seem a very good format for viewing comics and I’m sure that’s the comics fans will take to this way of viewing these graphic novels and picture stories like a duck to water. As with any of these iBooks textbooks it is possible for readers to add notes and to highlight certain areas of text. You just touch and hold with your finger to run across the text that you want to highlight and hey presto it’s done. On the front page of this comic book for iBooks there is an e-mail address, which when you click on it opens up a new e-mail ready to accept whatever text you want to put into it and send. There is also a live link in there to the website of the author. I tapped on the link and it took me directly to the website using iOS Safari.

When iBooks of this type are distributed in this way, it is a very simple drag-and-drop to take the book from wherever you have downloaded it to on your computer. You then drop it into iTunes, where it will be synchronised with your iPad the next time you do the synchronisation. It wasn’t difficult to move files to the iPad in this way. These new iBooks only work on the iPad although there is plenty of Apple commentators that are calling for the iBooks to also be available on the iPhone. If they are on the iPhone also, then some studying could be done, or a text or a comic could be enjoyed while out and about without your iPad. After all we always do carry our iPhones with us.

Learn how to get started and see an overview of iBooks Author

I have posted on the Wizardgold / Mac20Q YouTube channel, three videos showing how to get started creating iBooks using the Apple iBooks Author application. In the first of the videos on YouTube, I have demonstrated how to create a cover page within the application. The second video I am demonstrating creating an iBook showing how to get text from your other applications on your computer into your new iBook. The third video shows how to add a gallery which is one of the widgets that you can put into your iBook to show off a number of photos.

Wicked widgets in Apple’s iBooks Author application

Within the Apple electronic textbook creation application, you can add widgets which will give you a gallery, media widgets, review, Keynote, interactive image, 3-D widget and HTML. The widgets for the gallery, the media and the keynote are self-explanatory and to a certain extent the same goes also with the 3-D widget, if you have access to 3-D objects to put into your iBooks. The review widget is a special widget that goes into the book for you to create a question or a poll. This is most useful in a textbook where you want to use this questioning widget in order to reinforce the learning of a part of your text.

The interactive widgets, as yet, I don’t have any experience of these, but it could be something like where you have a map and you touch on one area to show a graphic that makes a particular point and touch on another area of the map which gives other information. The HTML widget basically is something that you will create using Dashcode, which is something that comes as part of Xcode that the developers use to create Mac applications. Following instructions on the Apple website for Dashcode, I was able to create a simple Dashcode widget which was a countdown to a specific date. It wasn’t terribly difficult and I would like to experiment more by creating other Dashcode objects.

Conclusion of this iBook’s Author overview

This new technology that has been made available for free by Apple to create iBooks etextbooks for iPad has amazing possibilities to be used for so many more things. It could easily be used to create anything from a cookbook, a manual for a camera, a user handbook for a car or even for instructions, using images and diagrams, showing how to put furniture together. We can be reading these eBooks on the iPad.

Without a doubt it is quite possible that this could spur on the creation of a whole new industry for creative types, to be the person in charge of the authorship of these types of books, for small and large companies. This is mainly because the application requires somebody, singular at the controls, putting the iBook together. It does require someone with a creative bent and could quite easily be a revitalisation of the desktop publishing industry. I can see this being very good for graphic designers.

Education and the Apple text books in iBooks

At the Apple event for iBooks iPad textbooks, obviously the emphasis was on education and creating books for use by students in schools and colleges. For this to really have credibility, there does have to be the large textbook publishing houses on board ready to sell textbooks through the Apple iBook store and it seems that this is actually the case, at least in America. About 90% of the textbooks produced are published by the publishers that have said they are involved with this initiative.

It doesn’t necessarily though have to be just from the top down with regards the publishing of iBooks textbooks. Teachers that are Mac users and even slightly technically savvy, will be able to produce textbooks for their classroom with ease. It will be extremely easy for the files to be distributed to the students through the school network. The best thing about this is that the textbooks will be totally customised to the school district, teacher, classroom and could even be tailored to specific groups of students. I expect we will see a world history textbook or even a plethora of world history textbooks along with a bunch of medical textbooks hitting the iBooks Store. Where can I buy textbooks for iPad? will be the question on the lips of students all over the place.

While I have been trying out this new application from Apple I have found that there are some bugs still in the application. The difficulties I have had, have not stopped me from creating iBook textbooks and I wouldn’t complain about this anyway, seeing as the application was free. In any case as a version 1 of a new software it certainly would seem a little churlish to complain. Apples’ iBooks textbook business looks like it will have a bright future in front of it as one the most useful educational apps for the iPad.

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