I’m on iBooks!

After we came back, at the end of May, from our holiday in Jordan, I decided to try to create an ebook containing some of my photos and a commentary using iBooks Author just because…

If you’re not familiar with iBooks Author, Harry McCracken coincidentally wrote a short piece about it recently. By and large, he likes it and so do I. iBooks Author is available as a free download from the Mac App Store.

On the whole, the app is pretty easy to use. There are several standard templates for different types of books, but, of course, these can be customised. The notional structure of a book is that it contains chapters, within a chapter there may be sections, and within sections and chapters there are pages. Each of these objects also has templates—pictures with or without text, text only in one, two or three columns, and so on. It’s certainly easier to work with these templates than start with a blank page as positioning is taken care of for you. Even though you have drag, 1 px nudging and even positioning by direct entry of coordinates, I found it quite time-consuming to create a new page layout.

Once you have your template in position, adding content is simple: for text just type. If you fill a page, a new one is automatically created and the text flows. Adding pictures is a matter of dragging images from the media browser to the predefined box, where you can fiddle around with masks, if you want to select which bit of the image to be displayed. There are widgets for more sophisticated content: gallery, media (audio/visual), review questions, Keynote, interactive image, 3D, scrolling sidebar, popover and HTML.

The only widget I included in my book was gallery. This creates an object on a page to which multiple images can be stacked. The reader then scrolls through these images before moving to the next page when they’re reading the book.

The most annoying constraint I discovered was that it’s not possible to reorder pages. Whole chapters and sections can be moved around (or copied and pasted), but pages themselves cannot be moved. This probably would have been much less of an issue, if I had not been designing the book on the fly. You can cut and paste text, so it’s not a showstopper.

It’s easy to preview your book either on iBooks on your Mac or on an iPad provided it is connected to your computer.

The completed book can be exported as a PDF, text file or in iBook format; this last can also be used to publish to iBooks. I decided to have a go at publishing. Turns out, it’s pretty easy. You need to create an iTunesConnect account with your Apple ID and install iTunes Producer. The export process from iBooks Author takes you through this step-by-step. As I was never intending to charge for my book, I didn’t worry about commercial issues like ISBN numbers.

in iTunes Producer you provide some meta data for the book, sample images, a preview chapter (which is created during the export process). When you’re happy, the book is submitted for review. Then you wait. In my case, the wait was about two weeks. Initially, my book was rejected because I had referred to it in the copyright notice as an “iBook”, which you’re not allowed to do. Apple thinks that it might imply some endorsement from them. I made the required changes and submitted an update; waited a few more days, then just yesterday I received an email that my book was “available on iBooks”. Whee!

So now you can download A Taste Of Jordan by clicking the link below.

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