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January 19, 2012

A few thoughts about the new iBook Author

Hey everyone,

as you probably may heard, Apple released today iBooks 2 alongside with a new authoring tool named “iBook Author” for creating digital, interactive textbooks. There are a few major publishers already on board and so you can grab your own copy of one of these new books from the iBooks Store. “Life on Earth” is a free (but hefty 980Mb) download and definitely worth checking out.

The layout and how you interact with these new textbooks reminds me of “Our Choice” by PushPopPress. Sadly the guys of PushPopPress decided not to further advance the technology and joined Facebook (see this article over at TechCrunch).

The textbook are built in a very linear way, which is not a bad thing. At the bottom of the screen in landscape-mode, you have an overview about the pages within a chapter. By pinching, you can enlarge these pages and from there on slide between them with your finger. It’s nicely done and very visual and clear. In portrait mode, the layout adapts to be more emphasized on text. You scroll through the text of that chapter and all interactive elements are presented with thumbnails on the left.

Aditionally there are some text-highlighting- and study-card-features, which can best be seen in one of those polished Apple-Showcase-Videos: Introduction to textbooks.

iBook Author

So far so good, what really excites me, is the new (and btw. free) iBook Author Tool for creating these textbooks. It’s an Mac-Only app and a mash-up of Pages and Keynote (I think it’s a bit more keynote than pages). I played around within the last hour and want to share my experiences so far:


  • It seems super-easy. If you know how to use Keynote, you’ll find yourself right at home
  • There are a lot of cool widgets, like Galleries, interactive quizzes, interactive images, 3d-Models and even a possibility for inserting you own HTML-Code
  • It seems that the new textbooks rely a lot on HTML5, which is rather impressing
  • Adding new pages, chapters is very easy
  • Performance of iBook Author and also of the textbooks are great.
  • Previewing on an iPad is quick and good
  • You can distribute your iBook also via Mail or your own website. But remember, that this is only allowed for free books. If you want to sell something, you have to do it via the iBook-Store.
  • Alternatively you can export your iBook also as a PDF
  • Cool glossar-Feature
  • It’s possible to style both portrait and landscape

Con’s, questions and wishes

  • You can’t start from scratch
    There are six  predefined templates, which are not bad, but very “apple-esque”. As a designer, I want full control over my design.
  • No way to edit the page masters of the templates Found it, thanks to Reed, first you have to display the layouts and there you can change them
    It would not be a problem to start off with these predefined templates, if there were a chance to edit the page masters. Well you can edit the fonts and stuff like that, but not the overall design of the pages (in an easy way via page master).
  • Custom fonts are not working yet
    I tried using the excellent font “Eames Century Modern” by HouseIndustries. It works perfectly fine on the mac, but sadly not on the iPad. The strange thing about it: When the preview is being refreshed on the iPad the font is correct, but after the loading finished it switches back to some default (I think Helvetica). It seems that, at the moment, only font are supported, which are also available on the iPad.
  • No master pages See above
    As mentioned above, there is no way of defining your own master pages. That’s sad, because therefore you can’t realize your own layouts.
  • No support for footnotes
    At least, I did not find any?

Yeah, yeah, I know… It’s the first version…. I just hope, that Apple further develops this software, so that it allows us all to produce feature-rich and beautiful interactive books in an easy way. But before it becomes a real opportunity for designers, it has to get rid of some of these flaws.

I’m eager to learn about your opinions and findings. Just drop a comment or say something via twitter @ffranke1985


12 Responses to “A few thoughts about the new iBook Author”

  1. Regarding cons #1, 2, and 4, see iBooks Author help: Set up your book > Create or modify templates or layouts. You can edit any template’s “layouts” (master pages), apply the changes to any pages using those layouts, and save a new template.

    Good to know that the preview is working with custom fonts; hope that functionality is enabled soon.

  2. Ah, cool, that’s how it works… But there isn’t a blank template, is there?

  3. I think that soon there will be a lot of html5-frameworks of .ibooks-variations. We are can use them later.

  4. even it’s easy to build an e-book with iBooks Author, that’s still not sound good to me as I am non-US citizen and paid-book purchasing service is not available in the iBookStore in my country (Malaysia), and most of the targetting countries which i plan to sell my ebooks to. Problably i will still stick to building ebooks as Apps.

  5. Me too. I downloaded the ibooks author. very easy authoring tool, verry Apple-ish and very productive. But generates heavy (big) files, and also in order to publish you will need ISBN numbers.

    I wonder, after this release, can we use your framework for creating content apps? or Apple will rejected them because of his new “toy”?
    Also, Florian (ok it is out of topic) when you submited your Laker Magazine using your framework, did they aprooved it on the first time? or you had some issues?

  6. Hey there,
    never had any issues because of the framework. One of my apps was rejected, because I used “dummy”-Lorem-Ipsum-Content.
    I don’t think that they will get rejected in the future because of iBooks Author. There are a lot of other magazine-, and book-Apps out there, which are already approved. I can’t imagine that they can’t deliever updates in the future…

  7. I just finished creating my book in landscape mode, and my book is basically a picture book will full screen images on every page and a little phrase to go along with that image. It took about 3 hours to do this. When I switch over to portrait mode, all of the pages are gone. Do I have to do this all over again for portrait mode or is there a way to import the pages from landscape mode and then edit them to fit the portrait mode? I really hope so….


  8. It seems, that you can specify a special layout for portrait mode (if you don’t using the default style). There is a button in the toolbar at the top to switch between the orientations.

  9. Hi, just wondering: I want to change the pictures (background) on the master page, but it seems they are locked. I can change the font at the master page, but if I want to delete the background it doesn’t work. Does anybody know how to do this?

  10. Hey found it. You can go to layouts window, it seems to be called layout. You can right click and choose duplicate. Then you are able to edit the duplicate as you want as master page for Chapter, article, etc.

  11. Would it be possible to create a magazine layout using iBooks Author and then somehow package it as an app? Any ideas on how that might be done?

  12. Sorry, don’t know.