A colleague of mine and I have a couple of days at school to explore iBooksAuthor as it might apply to our curricula. Our building tech person told us right off the bat that iBooksAuthor might not be the best tool because of its exclusivity to the iPad (books created in iBooksAuthor can only be read on an iPad; one of my goals for these two days is to research the extent to which that is still true and/or the extent to which there is a call to relax that restriction); iBooksAuthor does not create the more common ePub format, which can be read on devices (though not Kindles) as well as computers, and can be easily created with Pages or other more commonly used word processors (though not Word, though there is a work around; we’ll see if we get to that).

To prep for this work, I used a few sources (listed in order of usefulness).

  1. Publishing with iBooksAuthor: An Introduction to Creating eBooks with the iPad: an ebook or .pdf that is a free download from the publisher, it provides a good overview to iBooksAuthor, though is by far the longest of the resources (I actually read it last, beginning with the shorter blog posts to get some thoughts going into the longer read). Some of the material was a bit simplistic (tours of every section, including the more basic formatting ones) but the introduction lays out nicely the person, and his/her skills, for whom the book is written. Some essential bits from the book, however, are these: a) the difference between reading in and writing for landscape vs. portrait; b) the distribution of the product, especially in terms of free vs. paid accounts in the iBooks Store; c) the definition of and role of widgets; I think I might need to see these in action to get a fuller understanding of them, but it seems as if they’re almost an advanced form of macro, that you can assign a series of actions or commands to an element of the book; d) the auto-formatting, especially the automatic creation of a table of contents and the ability to create a glossary and an index.
  2. Using iBooks Author: A Video How-to: not a video by the author of the blog post (though his DBQ images look great) but a link to a Library Science professor at San Jose State’s video intro to iBooksAuthor; the video is about 14 minutes long but does a great job of showing (rather than telling) what iBooksAuthor can produce. It was especially helpful to see some of the interactivity between reader and book for visualizing how my own book might function.
  3. iPads, ePubs, and Windows: a blog post by Beth Holland about teaching an ePub course and accounting for Windows users. Not so much about iBooksAuthor itself, but some great tips and tools about how to convert existing content to an iBooksAuthor-compatible format or for creating content with more traditional tools (e.g. Word).
  4. So You Want to Make Your Own Textbook: an overview of book creation tools. Not particularly detailed but a good place to begin for iBooksAuthor alternatives.
  5. iBook vs. Web-based Textbook: a comparison of a Holt-McDougal textbook’s web-based version and the iBook version. Interesting to hear some of those differences, but some more details would have been helpful (and the conclusion seemed a bit muddied).
  6. Texas Tribune Blog: an article (3 years old) about Texas’ opening up of its state education budget to include open source material and hardware. Not directly applicable here, but an interesting harbinger about where things are going.

Time to get down to iBooksAuthor. I’m going to be converting at least one, if not more, of the units for my English 4 course, The Game of Life, which looks at sports and competition. One of the things I was grappling with when reading the iBooksAuthor book is how this product would be utilized, especially if the students don’t have iPads. It occurred to me, though, that this format would be a great format for producing a teacher’s edition, i.e. a place with all of the student content / course content but then also a place to link to all of that extra content that you want to include (and some years you do and some years you don’t): videos, other articles, etc. I’m going to start by converting the student material and then hopefully expand from there. We’ll see how it goes.