Tuesday, December 18, 2012

12 Apps of Christmas: January gave us iBooks Author

The Twelve Days of Christmas runs from Christmas Day to the evening of January 5th, or Twelfth Night. But TNM's 12 Apps of Christmas, which begins today, will look at significant media apps released this year – one per month. We start today with January and continue the series through New Year's Eve.

In January of this year Time Inc. was able to announce that it had completed its goal of launching tablet editions for all of its magazine titles with the release of an iPad app for Fortune Magazine.

One week later the Bonnier Technology group released an app for American Photo which completed its task of releasing tablet editions for its four titles. The group, at that time led by Gregg Hano, was the one part of Bonnier committed to using the Mag+ digital publishing platform. Later in the year Hano moved from Bonnier to Mag+ to become the new CEO and TNM interviewed him in April.

But the biggest news of the month came from the education event for Apple which saw the release of its free software iBooks Author (Mac App Store link).

After a short time to play with the software I wrote a post calling iBooks Author a "potential game changer" in a rare use of a terrible cliché.
The software package remains full of potential, and hundreds, probably thousands of people are using the software to create interactive books to be read using Apple's iBooks reader software.

But like many of Apple's products, one really doesn't know how committed to the software the company really is. The software is currently on version 2.0 which means it has received a major update since its January launch. But the software gets only infrequent updates and the fact that the software can not support other platforms remains an issue.

Nonetheless, the introduction of iBooks Author still remains a big deal for media companies, and the major objections many had to the software, its licensing agreement, proved to be a non-issue.

iBooks Author is very easy to use and after only a few weeks of working with it the designer finds they have mastered much of the tricks and quirks of the software that any art director will tell you lie within any design software package. Within minutes I produced the simple sample book you see above in the animated GIF.

This summer, however, I first used iBooks Author in a more serious fashion. My family and I went to Greece for vacation and while there, equipped with four iPhones, went on a photo shooting spree. Upon our return I gathered up the photos and produced a print photo book using iPhoto as I would usually do.

But once that book was completed and printed by Apple I realized that I could use iBooks Author to produce something much different. The result was an interactive book that contained not only photographs, but video, as well.

Despite being available for a year, however, iBooks Author has not become a standard due to its inherent limitations. Despite its ease and powerful multimedia capabilities, the authoring tool only works with Apple's iBooks. As a result, media companies using the authoring package are having to make a choice: do they launch for iBooks only? reformat and use another package for Kindle Editions? or use a completely different authoring tool to create cross-platform eBooks?

It's a tough choice, but meanwhile many magazine designers hold out hope that Apple will release a version of iBooks Author that will help them create interactive magazine editions. After all, who can beat the price Apple charges for its own design took – free.