Review: iBooks Author, the hope fades
I spent much of last weekend designing a book in iBooks Author. It was a horrendous experience. But then the application wasn’t designed for my use.
A book design tool for amateurs giving away free books
First of all, I must mention that the process of dialing back from InDesign to less than Pages is a huge leap backwards. Like Liz Castro, I was excited about the possibilities suggested by the hype. She found ten reasons why she can’t suggest iBooks Author. I have a few more.
Part of my reasons are about the shear lack of useability
- Styles cannot be set up in Author: they have to be set up in Pages (or possibly Word, though I no longer even have a copy of that). For example, you cannot do a first line indent in iBooks Author (AFAIK).
- Styles almost have to follow Author’s lead: Though you can bring in other styles from your word processor, Author doesn’t seem to like that at all and your styles list quickly gets far out of control.
- Basically you are forced to set things up in Word or Pages: If you then import that, a chapter at a time, you’ve got a good running start. You can copy and paste from InDesign, but the formatting is all stripped out.
- Graphics are very easy to add, very hard to control: I suspect this is only true because I have spent 20 years working with FreeHand, Illustrator and InDesign. But then you, my readers, have also, I think. I could not edit a mask’s shape, for example, and could find no way to do it in Help. Simple stuff like that. Remember, we are basically talking iWork Pages here.
But you already knew this, or you wouldn’t be reading this blog. The major reasons iBooks Author is useless centers around dealing with Apple. There are two major issues here. For their target market, one means little, the other is huge.
Amateur publishers in education can get their materials up in iBooks2
This is evidently true, but it doesn’t mean much. You can supposedly make up some quick materials and upload them to be available in iTunes U. People have been really upset that Apple will not allow you to publish this same book anywhere else. I wasn’t worried about that. It is simple enough to make a version for Apple to which they have exclusive rights. The iBook Author format will not work elsewhere anyway. So, it sounds good at this point (except for the massive limitations of the design software).
You must be a professional publisher before you can sell your work
What do I mean by that? This app, iBooks Author, will not let you upload a book unless you have an ISBN# for it. That is an upfront cost of $125 each, $250 for ten, $575 for a hundred, $1,000 for a thousand, and so on. This is not a minor expense to a teacher looking to get a wider audience for his work—especially because Lulu will do it for free! In addition, there is all the time necessary to pick a company name, register with Bowker and all that.
That is all ridiculous in the new paradigm of self-publishing in the 21st century.