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Posts tagged with "iBooks"

iBooks 3.2 Flattens the Pages With New iOS 7 Design

iBooks was one of the most obvious examples of an app that made sense in Apple's pre-iOS 7 world, when metaphors for describing real world objects were king. You had a shelf full of books, highlighting that looked like it was drawn by hand, and page curl animations that mimicked the feeling of flipping through a real book. The app was warm and inviting, providing a sense that you were browsing the modern equivalent of an actual book.

Apple has been staggering a lot of updates post-iOS 7, focusing on core product suites like iWork and iLife, coming back to apps like Remote at later time. I figured an app like iBooks would need some preferential treatment, given its importance to Apple's ecosystem, their focus on education, and the relevance of the iBooks Store in the digital age. It would have been perfect to have on hand during this September's Keynote, but maybe it would have been too much to announce on stage at once.

iBooks 3.2 features a brand new design that follows in the footsteps of Newsstand, with gradient rows replacing wooden shelves, leaving covers to stand out on their own. While some might have deemed all of the previous textures distracting, it's almost a shame to see all of the rich design in the app stripped away. It's still largely the same app as before, but it's just been reduced to generic iOS 7-isms we're all familiar with by now: textual buttons, straightened lines, and outline icons.

What's gone is the charm — the new iBooks is strictly all business. Highlighting no longer has that ink-on-paper look to it, nor does inserting a note resemble a sticky or Post-it note. The app has received an iOS 7 inspired reskin, but what's Apple doing to really show off this design's potential? Developers such as Tapbots are taking iOS 7 design much further with apps like Tweetbot 3.

There's also an update for iTunes U which is similar in design, using the same design language to describe courses and content.

iBooks and iTunes U are free updates from the App Store. Download them directly via the links below:


Introducing “Writing On The iPad: Text Automation with Editorial”

Short version

My first book is now available on the iBookstore. It's an extended edition of my Editorial review that comes with:

  • Completely reformatted layout and design with Retina screenshots, annotated videos, interactive graphics, and more
  • 20 exclusive new workflows
  • 5 new videos
  • 10,000 additional words
  • A photo of yours truly in the Introduction

You can read the book on your iPad, and it's $2.99 for a limited time.

Get it here.

Longer version (based on the book's Preface)

Editorial is a text editor for the iPad that supports Markdown, syncs documents with Dropbox, comes with a snippet system to speed up typing, and -- a feature that truly makes it stand out from similar apps -- is powered by workflows and scripts to automate writing, editing, and publishing. Editorial is developed by Ole Zorn, an independent software developer based in Germany. Editorial was released on August 15th, 2013; prior to the public release, I had been testing the app since late November 2012.

"Writing On The iPad: Text Automation with Editorial" contains my review of Editorial with an in-depth explanation and critique of the app's numerous features and workflow tools. My goal with this book is to provide a convenient, portable resource to learn more about Editorial, how the app changed the way I work on iOS, and how, through Editorial's automation, scripts, and workflows, it's possible to turn an iPad into a powerful tool for writers.

Originally, my Editorial review was here published at on August 15th, 2013, when Editorial for iPad was released on the App Store. However, following many readers' suggestions due to the length and scope of the review, I decided to offer an iBooks version of it. "Writing On The iPad: Text Automation with Editorial" contains the original review reformatted for iBooks, plus 20 extra workflows and 5 additional videos. You can consider it a "Director's Cut" edition of my Editorial review, now available in a multi-touch interactive book made exclusively for the iPad and iBooks.

The exclusive workflows included in the Extras chapter are:

  • Show Word Definition
  • Sort Lines Alphabetically
  • Convert Selection To HTML
  • Markdown Link from Clipboard
  • Markdown Image From Clipboard URL
  • Reference Link from Clipboard
  • Count Occurrences of Word
  • Count Links and Footnotes
  • Fill Login
  • Get RSS Feeds
  • URL Sharing Tools
  • Get Pinboard Bookmarks
  • Feed Wrangler
  • "Mark As..." On Feed Wrangler
  • Clean and Flip
  • Rich Text To Evernote
  • Save Tab
  • Reopen Tab
  • Manage Tabs
  • Clip Webpage

Alongside converting the review to the iBooks format and including new content, I also updated screenshots for Retina displays, created galleries to group multiple screenshots together, and annotated some screenshots to better describe the user interface of Editorial. The videos have been enhanced with textual overlays for comments, and I've created a glossary for common terms used throughout the book.

I consider this the best version of my Editorial review. Thanks to iBooks' interactivity, clean layout, and embedded rich content, I hope that you will enjoy a pleasant and convenient reading experience that should help you in getting started with Editorial and understanding the capabilities of advanced workflows and iOS automation -- an area that is often underestimated, but quickly growing among the iOS power user community.

I hope that you'll like what I've done. This is a new experience for me, and I would love to receive your feedback either via email or Twitter.

Once again: my new book is available here, and it's $2.99 for a limited time.

iBooks Author Support For The iPhone

Macworld's Serenity Caldwell noticed a change in the wording that lists software requirements for iBooks Author books on iTunes, and she thinks that may suggest iPhone support is coming next week:

To my mind, it’s likely that we’ll see iBooks Author support on the iPhone when iOS 7 is released. The groundwork, after all, has already been laid. As I mentioned in my critique of the program last year, iBooks Author already has a potentially viable option for iPhone and iPod touch users—its reflowable portrait mode. In it, interactive elements float alongside the text, which itself can be resized by the reader. In addition, current iPhone models (and any that might get announced next week) will have more than enough power to display videos and other interactive content.

I submitted a book made with iBooks Author to Apple a few days ago, and I completely agree with Serenity. Recent iPhone models (with Retina displays and taller screens) could work well with iBooks Author's portrait mode (where font size can be adjusted) and it seems strange that Apple still hasn't done this. I hope that we'll see iPhone support for iBooks Author books next week, as that would lead to a terrific boost in addressable audience for publishers.


Apple Releases iBooks 3.0

Officially announced at Apple's media event earlier today, iBooks 3.0 has now been released on the App Store. The new version is available here.

The new iBooks comes with a "continuous scrolling" option that, similarly to Marco Arment's Instapaper, allows you to keep scrolling when reading a book by simply swiping a single finger vertically on screen. As many noted today, this new feature will be particularly appreciated with the likely one-handed use of the iPad mini when reading, as the lighter device makes it easy to read a book with one hand and scroll easily. Read more

Apple Showcases Books “Made with iBooks Author”

Apple Showcases Books "Made with iBooks Author"

Every week on Thursday, Apple updates its various homepages across the iTunes Store, App Store, Mac App Store, and iBookstore to showcase new featured content and sections. This week, Apple has chosen to feature books "Made with iBooks Author" on the iBookstore's homepage.

Made with iBooks Author, these books bring ideas and stories to life. Our handpicked collection features titles filled with 3D images, video, and interactive diagrams, galleries, maps, and more. To read Multi-Touch books, an iPad with the latest version of the free iBooks app is required.

The custom section, available here, showcases 40 titles that have been designed with iBooks Author to include rich media such as images and video alongside text. Featured books include Olivia Harrison's "George Harrison: Living In The Material World" and DK Publishing's "Story of the Titanic". Links to download the iBooks app and browse more iBooks Author-made titles are also provided in the section, giving access to more content created using Apple's software such as David Sparks' "Paperless".

Unveiled at an education event in January, iBooks Author is Apple's latest entry in the OS X design and publishing offering. With an integrated interface to produce and lay out eBooks based on text, images, videos, and other interactive content, iBooks Author caught many's attention with its new take on touch-enabled books that could bring innovation in an area that had been long dominated by static formats and outdated standards. iBooks Author was also in the middle of a debate due to a controversial End User License Agreement, which Apple eventually clarified.


An Experiment with Comics, iBooks 2.0 and iBooks Author

Last week, Apple unveiled its iBooks Textbooks initiative alongside a new desktop application for OS X, iBooks Author, aimed at offering a single solution for authors willing to edit and design iBooks for the iBookstore or manual distribution through exporting options. Some limitations of iBooks Author have sparked a debate that we've covered extensively on MacStories last week, also through articles in our Reading List.

Proprietary file format controversies aside, it was already clear that iBooks Author would undoubtedly facilitate the creation of textbooks and eBooks heavily relying on graphics with its easy-to-use align tools and familiar interface.

Today, cartoon and t-shirt designer Richard Stevens has published an iBooks adaptation of its popular webcomic series that's been entirely converted and tweaked using iBooks Author as an initial experiment.

Waking Up With the Diesel Sweeties is a tiny little free ebook for the iPad. It contains all my comics from last month with a few tweaks, formatted in iBooks Author. This version only works on the iPad. It's not in the iBookstore, so you'll need to download the file and sync it to your iPad.

The eBook is available for download through Dropbox, and it can be installed on an iPad running iBooks 2. You can manually sync the file from iTunes to your iPad, or use an app like GoodReader to download it directly on your device and open it in iBooks. Whilst Stevens' first iBook is an experiment, it shows the possibilities opened by iBooks 2 and iBooks Author: the book fully supports iBooks' new annotations, highlights and study cards, and you can pinch on pages to access iBooks' new navigation with thumbnails displayed at the bottom of the screen.

I wrote last week that I wouldn't be surprised to see iBooks Author-based eBooks be used for something else other than regular books -- for instance, I've heard more than one developer say that they'd be interested in using the software to create interactive manuals and help tools for their apps, among other things. iBooks Author may have been criticized and there's still a lot of features Apple has to clarify and implement (especially for independent authors and publishers), but the interactivity and WebKit-based functionalities offered by the format look more promising every day.

iBooks Author From Apple’s Perspective

In following the interesting debate that has arisen with the release of iBooks 2.0, iBooks Author for Mac and a EULA that doesn't allow authors to sell iBooks outside of the iBookstore, I've seen two kind of reactions: it's either a draconian move or the "obvious choice" for Apple. I think the reasoning for Apple to release iBooks Author 1.0 today lies somewhere in the middle, so I'm trying to analyze this story from Apple's perspective, if possible.

Earlier today I tweeted:

John Gruber posted similar thoughts on Daring Fireball:

Second, it’s about not wanting iBooks Author to serve as an authoring tool for competing bookstores like Amazon’s or Google’s. The output of iBooks Author is, as far as I can tell, HTML5 — pretty much ePub 3 with whatever nonstandard liberties Apple saw fit to take in order to achieve the results they wanted. It’s not a standard format in the sense of following a spec from a standards body like the W3C, but it’s just HTML5 rendered by WebKit — not a binary blob tied to iOS or Cocoa. It may not be easy, but I don’t think it would be that much work for anyone else with an ePub reader that’s based on WebKit to add support for these iBooks textbooks. Apple is saying, “Fuck that, unless you’re giving it away for free.

To recap: iBooks created with iBooks Author can be given away for free or sold through the iBookstore, where Apple takes a 30% cut. iBooks created with iBooks Author cannot be sold outside the iBookstore, as stated in the iBooks Author EULA

Now let's consider the complicated scenario Apple must have faced when deciding as to whether iBooks Author 1.0 should have been a broader authoring tool, or a desktop editing suite for the iBookstore. Many devices nowadays are capable of displaying eBooks: smartphones, computers, tablets. There are several participants in the eBook race with the biggest player being Amazon, followed, I guess, by Apple with the iPad/iBookstore and many others including Barnes & Noble, Google, and so forth. eBooks are variegate: there are many file formats, different distribution networks with their own licenses and terms, different desktop editing programs that comply to a few standards, the most popular one being EPUB, which Apple also accepts for iBooks and the iBookstore. Apple is not alone in the eBook market.

Apple, however, doesn't make much revenue off Internet services and the various Stores it operates. It's a known fact iTunes and the App Store have been a break-even operation for many years, with the main goal of providing content and not making a serious profit. I assume the numbers for the iBookstore fall in line with iTunes and the App Store -- Apple doesn't make much money out of iBooks, nor did they ever plan to base their business on it. But: iBooks, apps and media are ways to get people to buy iOS hardware, which is where Apple makes money. Apple is a hardware company that produces fine software that helps them sell a lot of hardware. The iBookstore is, ultimately, a way for Apple to tell people that an amazing eBook reading experience is possible on iOS devices. iBooks is a brand that Apple should care to protect and maintain because it is associated with its main source of revenue -- the hardware. Other companies, too, seem to understand that software and content drive hardware sales.

Because iBooks is Apple's brand and platform now, Apple obviously wants to have some kind of control on the whole experience and distribution. And this is where things start to get tricky. On the App Store, apps have technical limitations that force them to go through the approval process before a user can install them. You can't install apps in any other way, unless you're willing to hack into your device's operating system. Apps are made with Xcode and sold by developers enrolled in the iOS Developer Program. The setup is fairly similar with the iBookstore: iBooks are created in iBooks Author by writers/editors enrolled in the program, sold in the iBookstore so a user can download them. But there's a big difference: we learn today that iBooks can be distributed for free elsewhere. This is not possible for iOS apps, and this is the reason I believe today's announcement has been so controversial.

The problem, I think, is that allowing iBooks to be distributed for free anywhere but forcing authors to sell them only through Apple is seen as a pretentious move from a company that many were expecting to announce a grand plan to save the publishing industry today. It's the sort of gray area that's open to discussion and generally causes the sort of debates we've seen on the Internet. But, in fact, it is a move from a company that wants to make money: if you were to run a business you know it's going to break even, giving away a great desktop application that costed thousands of dollars in research and development knowing that you'll have to maintain it for years to come, wouldn't you want to have products in your own Store and at least ask for a 30% cut?

Others say the main issue is not with the 30% cut itself -- we're used to it now -- it's with the requirement of having paid editions of iBooks only in the iBookstore. It's not like it's technically impossible to sell them elsewhere, right? It's not like apps -- and that is correct. In theory, Apple could allow .ibooks files to become just another file format that you can distribute digitally online, and even sell it for a price as several designers do, for instance, with .psd files. But the problem lies deeper, not in the revenue cut but in the locking-in philosophy that is leading some people to believe this is akin to banning free speech. So let's look at this from a more conceptual standpoint.

I mentioned above iBooks is a brand that is functional to Apple's primary way of making money. Imagine this: if Apple were to allow distribution of paid eBooks anywhere, nothing could stop an author from selling it on other channels -- I'd say Google and Amazon but let's assume "his website" for now. What would stop this author from selling his iBook at a lower price on his website, and at a 30% more on the iBookstore to make up for Apple's cut? And now with the second scenario: imagine Google rolling out support for .ibooks files in the eBookstore. Why would Apple want Google, of all companies, to get to brag about .ibooks? And even if it's not about the .ibooks published format (of limited use outside of iBooks 2.0), why wouldn't Apple require a small kickback for the result of a desktop program they gave you for free?

Keeping a brand, lock-in, revenue cut: it's all part of a bigger plan, which is selling hardware people want because of the experience it provides. This experience is provided by content. Again, ecosystem.

So, in a way, iBooks aren't too different from apps. I could even argue that in Apple's vision, everything that goes through iTunes has some sort of exclusivity attached to it. Yes, even music and movies: iTunes Extras and LPs aren't as popular as apps and books, but they're an example of the integrated media/platform experience that Apple sells.

From my perspective, of course I would have been more excited to see a broader authoring tool announced today with no licensing terms for paid eBooks and full EPUB support. But as I've stated in a Twitter conversation with Jason Snell, this is a 1.0 version of a tool that was clearly meant for textbook publishers, and released today for other authors as well. What I could really argue is that it's not like Apple doesn't have the resources to come up with a full-featured authoring tool on Day One, and it would have been much better to appeal to all kinds of authors and audiences starting today with a great format and a great app. But: not all apps are perfect on day one. Not even Apple's. Political speculation aside, I wouldn't be surprised to know they had to get this out of the door today in preparation of the big iPad 3 launch. We'll never know why iBooks Author was released today and not in two months with more features, but we know that Apple is a company that in the past months hasn't been afraid of reversing a couple of unpopular decisions.

As usual, we wait.

Considering iBooks Author For Your Next Book Project

Considering iBooks Author For Your Next Book Project

Matt Gemmell has put together a nice overview of what it'll be like to work with Apple's new authoring tool. To sum up: you can sell iBooks only through the iBookstore with a maximum price of $14.99, but you can also give them away for free elsewhere. iBooks 2.0 is required, as well as an iPad. iBooks Author is Mac-only and it doesn't have any collaborative features yet.

But here's the most important part, which I think Apple could have explained a little better: iBooks Author-created book files can be sold through iBookstore and Apple takes a 30% cut. iBooks Author-created files can be given away elsewhere, for free. Content from an iBooks Author file (read: your actual text and images) can be-repackaged in another authoring environment. Lex Friedman pointed out in a Twitter conversation that the model is similar to apps but misguided because apps can't be given away for free, whereas iBooks when sold must go through Apple's Store. Again, we'll see how authors will respond in the next months.

Also keep in mind this observation from Gemmell:

Naturally, once your text is in iBooks Author, you’re essentially writing and editing within a page-layout application, rather than a word processor or text editor. As with any publishing workflow, you will want to do the writing and editing first, and then put the book together (as much as possible). iBooks Author is resolutely not a writing environment.

Question now remains as to whether the iBooks Author EULA is something that will stick around, will be clarified, or if it's simply the work of an overzealous lawyer. Dan Wineman writes:

In other words: Apple is trying to enforce a rule that whatever I create with this application, if I sell it, I have to give them a cut. And iBooks Author is free, so this arrangement sounds pretty reasonable.


When I make something myself, no matter what software I use to make it, then — assuming it doesn’t infringe any copyrights — it’s my right to distribute it however I want, in whatever format I choose, for free or not. I don’t lose the right to publish my novel if Microsoft determines that I wrote it using a pirated copy of Word. Would I lose that right if I tried to sell my iBook outside of the iBookstore and Apple got wind of it? I don’t know; we’re in uncharted waters here. Or how about this: for a moment I’ll stipulate that Apple’s EULA is valid and I’ve agreed to it implicitly by using the software. Now suppose I create an iBook and give it to someone else who has never downloaded iBooks Author and is not party to the EULA, and that person sells it on their own website. What happens now?

Hopefully an online turmoil will force Apple to clarify this.


iBooks Textbooks Commentary

Following the announcements Apple made this morning about iBooks 2.0, textbooks and iTunes U, some interesting discussions have surfaced online in regards to Apple's willingness to improve the education system -- and reinvent textbooks -- using iBooks and the iPad. Being based in Italy, I can't comment specifically on the U.S. school system and what these new products mean for students, school districts and educational institutions, but I do have a few ideas and links to share.

iBooks has turned into a platform. No more just an e-Reader, with the addition of textbooks and books created through iBooks Author Apple seems to be betting on iBooks as a platform that stands on its own, just like iTunes and the App Store. You could argue that this was already clear from the start with the dedicated iBooks app and iBookstore within iOS, but it's even more relevant now because of one key factor: content creation. Provided you have an iBookstore account, you can now create content-rich books on your Mac and sell them through the iBookstore. You can also export them locally, and preview them on your iPad. I have no idea how smaller, independent publishers and authors will respond to iBooks Author in the long term, but as far as creating content goes, Apple's latest desktop app looks fantastic. The double nature of this announcement (rich textbooks, books by authors) combined with the existing features of iBooks has a real chance of creating "an iBooks ecosystem".

Software sells the hardware. Obvious consequence: books created with iBooks Author (packages, not the actual content) can only be sold through the iBookstore. Now, assuming authors like the functionalities and workflow enabled by iBooks Author and assuming they also like money, if this initiative proves successful in the long term, what devices are authors going to recommend?

...It depends. iBooks Author looks like a great eBook creation app, but some authors are skeptical. We will have to wait and see if authors will adopt the software, if Apple will provide continued support with updates and, ultimately, if iBooks Author can be used effectively for all kinds of eBooks, not just those heavy on media and fancy effects. For instance, it doesn't look like EPUB is supported right now as the format seems to be different. Ben Brooks is right: Apple seems to be targeting Kindle Singles directly with iBooks Author.

Rich content made simple. iBooks Author simplifies the process of creating content-rich books with drag & drop, pop-out menus, auto-align controls, and more. From iBooks Author's Help section:

  • Gallery: Add a sequence of images your readers can swipe through, each with its own custom caption.
  • Media: Add a movie or audio file readers can play.
  • Review: Add a sequence of interactive multiple-choice or drag-to-target questions.
  • Keynote: Add a Keynote presentation (exported as HTML).
  • Interactive image: Use labels (sometimes called callouts), panning, and zooming to provide detailed information about specific parts of a graphic.
  • 3D: Add a 3D COLLADA (.dae) file readers can rotate.
  • HTML: Add a Dashboard widget (.wdgt).

By using web technologies, desktop-class content creation software and an iWork-like interface, with iBooks Author Apple is offering what Xcode is to the App Store. For free.

Accessibility. iBooks Author fully takes advantage of VoiceOver and other Accessibility technologies to let people with disabilities read and experience books. Apple takes Accessibility seriously, and it shows.

Other uses for iBooks Author? I haven't played with it yet, but I wouldn't be surprised to see iBooks Author being used for other purposes.

iBooks Textbooks remind me of Push Pop Press. And guess what, the folks behind PPP (acquired by Facebook earlier this year -- coincidence?) sound pretty pissed off.

Prices. iPads are expensive! But so were PCs and Macs. As Stephen Hackett correctly points out, Apple doesn't disclose educational pricing, and several schools already have leased Macs in the classrooms. Will Apple provide a 1-1 "switching program" for schools that don't need Macs anymore? And what will base pricing of leased iPads look like? The Verge spoke to Apple's Phil Schiller, who told them "he thinks the numbers work out favorably for school districts if you weigh the costs of textbooks and classroom computers against iBooks content and iPads". Joshua Schnell has a slightly different take and suggests that iPads may only end up being used in "rich white kid schools". I think we don't have enough details to speculate on Apple's educational pricing right now (as usual, a Volume Purchase Program for apps and books is available). The only data point we have is that iBooks Textbooks will be cheaper than physical textbooks...if publishers don't change their minds.

Yes, physical books are more "durable" if you drop them. But what do you use today, an encyclopedia with a typewriter or a PC? Time to move on.

Other devices. I'm hearing reports of iBooks 2.0 and iTunes U not running smoothly on the original iPad and older iPhones, confirming my theory that textbooks seem to be heavily targeting the speedy A5 processor of the iPad 2 (I have no idea why would iTunes U and regular books run slower on older-gen devices though). Let's not forget that an A6-enabled iPad 3 is rumored to land soon, and Apple may keep the iPad 2 around at a lower price.

Digital books are still heavy. Pearson's Biology textbook is a 2.77 GB download. We complained about iPad magazines and their absurd download sizes, but it looks like there isn't much you can do about heavy content like images and video. When I was a kid, I often needed a bigger backpack for textbooks. Now kids will need bigger flash memory.

It's up to schools and teachers. Pricing issue aside (and that is a huge "aside" for now), schools and teachers will obviously have to learn how to deploy and manage iPads, as well as integrate textbooks and new learning experiences into their curricula. In the current scenario, it's very likely that kids already know how to use iPads, and their teachers will have to play catch up. On the technical side, I'd suggest schools to look for inspiration in Fraser Speirs' experiences.

Apple doesn't want to fix textbooks. They want to improve learning. The underlying message of today's announcements isn't strictly about textbooks -- surely they play a big role in education, but the scope of Apple's mission is much broader. Apple wants to re-imagine learning and improve current standards with new technologies: content management systems for classes are nothing new, but iTunes U takes it to a whole new level with a beautiful, always-connected, interactive application. There are big corporations that control the education/textbook market and who knows if they're really willing to give Apple the leading role in this game with distribution, standardization of technologies and guidance. As Dan Frommer notes, change is not going to happen overnight but you can't believe in paper textbooks as "the future".

Apple's revamped education strategy will be interesting to follow.