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Apple Announces “iBooks Author” Mac App, Available For Free Today

At its education media event in New York, Apple's Phil Schiller just announced iBooks Author, a new Mac app for authoring books. From an intuitive interface that takes advantage of the desktop's real screen estate, authors will be able to create and manage interactive books to use in the new iBooks 2, also announced and released today.

iBooks Author falls in line with previous speculation on a "GarageBand for eBooks", and we'll update this story with more details as we get them. From a demo offered on stage at the Guggenheim Museum, iBooks Author looked fairly impressive. Described by attendees as a "WYSIWYG application for building eBooks", iBooks Author comes with a template chooser that makes it easy to get started on a new book project. Authors will then get access to a variety of tools in an interface that resembles Pages and Keynote with various controls to manage media, lay out text with drag & drop controls, and more. The automatic lay out of text seemed especially reliable from the first demo, with Apple noting that the experience they formed in making interactive animations in Keynote served as a foundation for making beautiful, interactive books without programming. Those in audience noted a few similarities to Push Pop Press' one and only eBook experiment, released earlier this year on the iPad.

Now anyone can create stunning iBooks textbooks, cookbooks, history books, picture books, and more for iPad. All you need is an idea and a Mac. Start with one of the Apple-designed templates that feature a wide variety of page layouts. Add your own text and images with drag-and-drop ease. Use Multi-Touch widgets to include interactive photo galleries, movies, Keynote presentations, 3D objects, and more. Preview your book on your iPad at any time. Then submit your finished work to the iBookstore with a few simple steps. And before you know it, you’re a published author.

iBooks Author is rich on content. Authors can drag & drop Keynote presentations onto the main window and have the animation load inline, or embed web content via HTML5 and JavaScript. With glossaries, images, video and an overall focus on clean, easy-to-use management of interactive content, Apple described iBooks Author as a "miracle" compared to old eBook authoring tools. iBooks Author even iBookstore support built-in, and a preview function to quickly send a work-in-progress file to an iPad for instant preview.

iBooks Author will be available on the Mac App Store later today for free. [image via]

Update: iBooks Author is now available on the Mac App Store.

From the feature list:

  • Choose from a variety of widgets that add Multi-Touch interactivity to your book
  • Add a photo gallery, chapter review, movie, Keynote presentation, interactive image with callouts, 3D object, or custom HTML anywhere in your book
  • Widgets include placeholders for titles and captions and are automatically numbered so you can reference them in your main text
  • Add accessibility descriptions to any widget so that it can be used by sight-impaired readers easily with VoiceOver
  • Preview your book in iBooks on an iPad to see how it looks and works
  • Easily add a cover, video introduction, copyright page, dedication, and foreword
  • Submit your book to the iBookstore for sale or free download with a few simple steps*
  • Export your book in iBooks format to share on iTunes U or to give to others
  • Create a version of your book as a PDF file

iBooks Author requires OS X Lion (version 10.7.2) and, whilst anyone could in theory download the app and create a book to release on the iBookstore, Apple notes that "additional terms and conditions apply", which suggests an ISBN would still be required for an author to distribute books on iTunes. However, even without a proper registration to the iBookstore users can still play around with iBooks Author to distribute books locally (we assume by simply exporting a file) and preview them in an iPad.

From Apple's Help section for iBooks Author, here's the procedure to follow to release books on iBookstore:

  • Create an iBookstore seller account.
  • Download iTunes Producer, the application you use to submit your book to the iBookstore. After your iBookstore seller account is created, you can sign in to iTunes Connect and download iTunes Producer.
  • Have an active contract. For more information, sign in to iTunes Connect and go to Contracts, Tax, and Banking.
  • Create a sample book (as described below). Customers can view the sample book for free before deciding to purchase the book. You decide how much of your book and exactly which content to include in the sample, and then you submit the sample along with the book.
  • Make sure your published book is a maximum of 2 GB (the iBookstore file size limit). The publishing instructions below describe how to check the book’s file size. Other file size considerations include the following:
  • Readers with a 3G network can’t download books larger than 20 MB.
  • The larger the file size, the longer it takes for a book to download. To optimize download time, keep your book file smaller than 1 GB.

Those interested in creating an iBookstore account can check out the terms here. As reported above, books can be exported locally as plain text, iBooks format or PDF, and synced with iTunes 10.5.3. Apple has also posted a series of support documents about iBooks textbooks and iBooks Author:

- iBooks Author: Use iPad-safe fonts when authoring books

- iBooks Author: How to make your iBooks accessible

- iBooks Author: Add video to your iBooks

- iBooks Author: Best practices for using 3D models

iBooks Author: Publishing and distribution FAQ

Last, Apple's official webpage on iBooks Textbooks is now available here.

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