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iBooks Author FirstUse

Adobe built their Digital Magazine Publishing (DMP) tools by leveraging their Creative Suite (CS) platform of applications. As we use CS5 (Dreamweaver, Photoshop) for much of our work, we were eager to give them DMP tools a try. We created a few issues (2010 Holiday Gift GuideSpring 2011 issue1000 Character Reference) for the iPad using the beta version of the tools and would have kept using the released versions had Adobe priced them within our reach. Unfortunately, we had to look for other options.

When Apple announced they would reveal their plans regarding textbook publishing, we were hoping they would release a tool which will enable small publishers to build books for the iPad quickly and inexpensively. On January 19, Apple unveiled iBooks Author(iBA), the “iMovie” of iPad book creation. We have been playing with the application for the past ten days and have been duely impressed. iBooks Author is not as flexible as Adobe’s DMP suite of tools, but it has all of the features (templateswidgetspreview, etc…) we had hoped for in a 1.0 version.

iBooks Author requires a Mac with a 64-bit CPU and OS X 10.7 (Lion). Long-time readers know that we only upgrade our hardware and software when we absolutely must. We decided it was worth it to upgrade our Macbook Pro (MBP) to a model with a Core 2 Duo 64-bit processor in order to run iBA. While the oldest (hence least expensive) MBP with that processor is from late 2006, we thought we probably should get something from 2008, the main reason being that the 2008 MBPs are able to handle more RAM (up to 6GB).

Just how easy is iBooks Author to figure out? If you can use any of the Apple’s other software (iMovie, iDVD, iPhoto), you should have no problem picking up iBooks Author. There are six Apple-designed templates to get you started. The templates may be tweaked, modified, and combined to suit your needs.

The best way to get a feel for how iBooks Author works is to play around with it. We did a quick and dirty layout of a RainyDayScience issue in less than ten minutes. We were amazed at all the things which were generated, tracked, and updated automatically (Table of content, Preface page, etc…) by the software. This really freed us to focus on laying out the content without having to worry about numbering of the pieces.

The feature we found most useful was the “Preview on iPad” function. When we were using Adobe’s workflow, we had to upload the data to the Adobe site, wait for it to build, then download it to the iPad, before we can view it. The cycle can take up to five minutes if the issue was large. With iBooks Author, all we had to do was connect the iPad, click the icon, and the data is transferred to the tablet. The preview shows up in the iBook2 bookshelf with a “proof” watermark in the icon.

The iBooks Author is going to fundamentally change book and magazine publishing for the iPad. All of those companies building proprietary tools just had their business turned upside-down. We are not sure how Adobe is going to respond, but they will have to change they way they charge for the DMP tools or risk that business going away, at least for small books and magazine publishers. We have been looking forward to this day and we are happy that it has arrived. It is going to be a really fun year 🙂 Time for us to get to work!!!

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