Some Thoughts on iBooks Author

Today was the day of the much-speculated upon textbook news from Apple. And as it turns out, it actually was pretty big news.

iBooks Author could represent a big leap forward in terms of how digital textbooks are created — the barrier of entry for textbook creation just changed a whole lot. And that’s a good thing.

I’d definitely recommend Engadget’s hands-on review (“Apple’s iBooks Author hands-on”), which provides some sound guidelines for what to expect if you want to give iBooks Author a try —

“One of the things we noticed is that you probably won’t want to spend too much editing raw text in the app. This is certainly not going to replace your text editor of choice — the templates are very fussy and require you to have everything ready before you commence. What does impress us is that every part of the layout is customizable. In this regard, it feels as if Apple’s tried to anticipate most common tweaks that amateur textbook authors would want to make and provide for them.”

And depending on what educators or prospective textbook publishers are planning to do, this is important information:

“Apple confirmed to us that you can publish classroom materials for free and that each book will be approved in the same way that the App store approvals process works. Copyrighted works (if you utilize any) will have to be strictly cited and referenced in order to pass muster. You’ll be able to publish books for free, all the way up to $14.99: with a fixed profit-share model of 70/30 between yourself and Cupertino. Most importantly of all, any book that you publish must be an exclusive to iBooks.”

From what I’ve been able to tell from my own hands-on time with iBooks Author thus far, the ease of use and user interface gets an “A” in my books. Compared to some of the current options out there to the general public for digital textbook publishing, iBooks Author is a big, big change for the better.

GalleyCat (“Apple Unveils iBooks Author App”) has a helpful, short and sweet rundown of what iBooks Author is all about.

For those of us that are interested in such things, the next best thing to being at the Apple announcement event is courtesy of AllThingsD, with a super-thorough live-blogging report (“Apple Unveils iPad Textbook Plan”).

And — was anyone else also pleasantly surprised that iBooks Author is free? Free educational tools for teachers = good. Check out iBooks Author on the Apple website here.

Also check out Apple’s iBooks Author Gallery for some textbook examples. Not bad. Not bad at all.

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I run the ThinkLab at the University of Cambridge, and research digital habits, productivity, and wellbeing.

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