By reading the articles on this website, it’s not too hard to see that I like Apple products. Although, I can still be critical of the company. I recently gave Apple a 1-star review for iBooks Author. This review on iTunes was rated helpful over 150 times. Why? What’s the problem with a free program? It’s simple. Just compare iBooks Author to Pages. Both applications can create ebooks, but only one does it without strings attached.
While working on The Interactive Stencyl Textbook, iBooks Author seemed like the perfect application for this project. The goal was to create interactive examples, making it easier to learn Stencyl. Originally, the idea was to create a PDF with embedded Flash files, but I felt that Apple’s application delivered better results. Additionally, iBooks Author was easy to use. I could create a page with pixel perfect precision. The integration of text, images, videos, widgets and 3D animation felt seamless. By using technology that was previously limited to science fiction, it was like building a book of the future.
After experimenting with iBooks Author, I was pleased with Apple’s software. It was tough getting motivated to finish this project, but iBooks Author made it fun. Once finished, the book felt solid. It was likely my best publication ever. I decided to publish the book to the iBook Store on iTunes. That’s when the limitations of iBooks Author become clear. With so many other books available, iTunes is a cluttered mess. That might not be such a problem, but that’s the only place Apple permitted me to sell my iBook. To use the free application, I had to agree to Apple taking 30% of sales and making them an exclusive seller. If the sales were great, I probably wouldn’t be so grumpy. Unfortunately, the sales were terrible.
iBooks Author is great for creating interactive ebooks, but the problem is selling those books. With iTunes / iBooks being the only possible venue, billions of customers are excluded. Only people with a Mac or an iPad can use the book – and the book can only be purchased from countries that are supported by the iBook store. That means if your only computer is a Windows computer, you can’t read the book. Even if you have iBooks on an iPhone, that’s still not good enough.
Because Apple doesn’t have iBooks on Windows or Linux, creating a Stencyl book with iBooks Author was a bad move. Unlike the early days of GameSalad, the Stencyl application is not limited to Mac. That means many of the developers that use Stencyl might not own a Mac or iPad.
Some might say, “Hey Mike… iBooks Author exports to PDF.” This is true. It does. But by exporting to PDF, the interactivity is lost. That was the whole point of using iBooks Author. Otherwise, I could have used Pages, which exports to PDF and ePub. If I created my Stencyl book in Pages, I could still sell it on the iBook Store – but it wouldn’t have to be exclusive. And with a standard .epub file instead of a .ibooks file, more devices would be supported. That’s better for sales.
While more involved, interactivity can also be added to an epub file from Pages. It just has to be done manually – after the epub is created. It’s not intuitive and very tedious, but it can work. That’s the major missing piece from creating interactive ebooks with Pages – it doesn’t import widgets. However, Pages does accept video files, which can make an ebook more interesting.