26 January 2012
Last month, I wrote about The Beatles' Yellow Submarine ebook, which is like a modern pop-up book, with animated illustrations, interactive pictures, embedded videos, and text that reads itself aloud. Since that was published, there have been some educational interactive books appearing in the iBooks store. It's clearly something that Apple is putting a lot of weight behind, and it represents a new class of content that is ideal for the iPad.
Now Apple has released the software for creating these books, iBooks Author, for free on the Mac app store. It's only for the Mac (obviously), but it enables authors and self-publishers to lay out their books and embed video, images with pop-up captions, custom HTML (web page code), photo galleries, Keynote presentations and 3D objects.
This will make it much easier for anyone (with a Mac) to publish their own interactive ebooks, which has an upside and a downside. The upside is that authors can express themselves in more interesting and creative ways, and readers can benefit from a richer catalogue of original content, unfiltered by major publishers. The downside is that not everyone is brilliant at video, layout, writing, design and all the other skills that are required, so there's bound to be some rubbish content that undermines faith in the format as a whole. We've seen the same phenomenon in website publishing and print-on-demand publishing. I'd much rather that people have the opportunity to use these tools, but the best way to exploit them might be for writers to team with other creatives who can help to bring their ideas to life. For now, before the masses adopt the tool, there's clearly an advantage for authors who can move quickly to publish compelling interactive content.
You can find a short guide to iBooks in my book iPad for the Older and Wiser, and my articles for writers and publishers here.