Hands on with iBooks Author 2.0
Posted 31 October 2012 - 06:12 AM
No wonder so many people get totally pissed off with it and after sticking with it for a while drift away to someone else who lets you do what you want to do, not what Apple forces you to.
iBooks Author looked absolutely stunning when it first came out and I was itching to weigh in with my own publications, until I started to hit all the obstacles Apple put in my way.
From being forced to get a US Tax account to ending up spending most of my time debugging what is supposed to be a writing opus, and then not being able to deliver it to a full market of Apple devices, because of arbitrary and senseless decisions at One Infinity Loop.
The "It just works" is one fat lie.
I wonder how long Apple will stick with this before losing interest like it does with so many of its projects?
Posted 31 October 2012 - 07:40 AM
For instance, at first I was delighted that the portrait-only mode seem to offer templates for a text-only book without all the high-school textbook clutter of so many templates. But, creating a short sample book, I discovered that the contents generated by portrait mode seems to be the absurd one-chapter-per-screen contents for landscape mode rather than the text list of portrait mode. For a textbook with sections and lots of pictures that may make sense. For novels and biographies, it looks ridiculous--one little line with the chapter title per screen. And I couldn't find any way around that.
So I'm now seeing if InDesign CS6 is a better option. I need to use it anyway for print versions, and it's not vastly only more powerful, with it I don't hit all those 'you can't do that' roadblocks that are in IBA.
Yesterday's trial run went well. Amazon's Kindle plug-in seems to have come of age and created something that lacked any high-level formatting but still looked fine on my Kindle 3. It looked even better on my iPad, probably because it was displaying KF8 rather than mobi. That takes care of Amazon publishing.
Then there is the iBookstore. I've yet to see how well the ePub that ID creates works with iPads and whether pure ePub of the fixed format ePub version is best. Pure ePub should work with iPhones. The fixed format should look better on iPads. Like you said, Apple should have a seamless way to publish for both. At any rate, generating ePub for my iPad is today's project.
The downside of IBA has always been that it's a iBookstore only tool. For schools and education publishing creating textbooks for schools with iPads, that may be fine. But I need to create books for print, Kindles, and iPads, as well as the rest of the market (i.e. B&N, Kobo etc.) I can't be using a different app for each. With ID CS6 and Amazon's Kindle plug-in, InDesign seems to be a better option for those who can afford the initial high price.
Posted 31 October 2012 - 09:31 AM
You mentioned LaTeX and MathML as allowable means for entering equations into iBA2, but you failed to mention MathType. MathType was the means of including equations into an iBA1 book, and is arguably the primary means for doing so in iBA2. I'll explain "primary" in a bit...
1. The first time you choose the Insert Equation command, you're presented with the opportunity to make a choice of equation entry method -- either MathType or iBA. If you choose iBA, you may (as you pointed out) type or paste either LaTeX or MathML into the Edit Equation dialog.
2. Whichever choice you make, you can switch to the other method at any time in Preferences.
3. No matter how equations are created -- MathType, LaTeX, or MathML -- equations are always represented as MathML in a published iBook and as SVG in a published PDF.
4. If you prefer, you can choose to edit any iBA equation in MathType, even if it was originally created in LaTeX or MathML. This isn't true for the other 2 methods -- you cannot edit a MathML equation by using LaTeX, and vice versa.
It's true there will be many iBook authors who won't use MathType, but the reason I said it's "primary" is because 1) it creates MathML, which was never intended (as stated in the spec) to be written manually, and 2) because it can edit equations created by any of the 3 equation authoring methods. This also opens up collaboration possibilities that didn't exist with iBA1. Now it's possible for 2 individuals to co-author a textbook, and one choose to write LaTeX equations and the other to use MathType.
There are 2 issues with iBA that we hope Apple will address in an update to iBA:
1. In iBA1, it was possible to use the Layout tab on the Widget Inspector to add an "Accessibility Description" to an equation. This allowed authors to associate a speech string to be read aloud by VoiceOver for readers with sight impairments. This feature is apparently intended to be enabled in iBA2, but it doesn't work.
2. As you noted in your article, iBA will allow you to select fonts of your own preference, and will embed them into the published iBook. At the moment, there's no [easy] way to change font face for equations though. There are alternatives to the math font Apple uses, but these aren't available through toolbar or menu selections.
Posted 31 October 2012 - 10:51 AM
Yes, that market of only half of Apple's iOS devices is a mere 100 million iPads.
If that is not a large enough market I'm not sure what is.
Posted 31 October 2012 - 11:58 AM
IBAv1 was terribly finicky about video. It rejected videos that played perfectly well in the Videos.app on iPad. The current optimization routine is an apparently a well intentioned correction of that finickiness. Alas, the road to h-e-double-toothpicks is paved with good intentions.
If you are writing a textbook or any kind of book containing video that requires providing soft subtitle tracks to address accessibility and other important goals or alternate audio tracks to reach a wider, multi-lingual audience, be aware that this optimizer will strip out those valuable assets without notice.
Of concern to a wider group of authors is the violence done to certain videos by this "optimization" routine. Although it works quickly and does a reasonably good job on video that is already close to optimal, it wreaks havoc on video that is not. Take a 1280x800 video, feed it to this monster and compare the results between that on an iPad in iBooks and the original in QuickTime Player. This routine should down sample the video and add letterboxing to accommodate the 1200x720 requirement for iPad video. Instead, it creates a fuzzy mess that is unusable in an iBook.
The worst part is that you cannot revert to the old regime.
Senior Director for External Projects
and Assistant to the Director, Digital Innovation Group @ Georgia College
Posted 31 October 2012 - 12:35 PM
"...is as simple as opening the Font Picker or the Text Inspector"
There are about 4 ways to choose fonts, I'm not sure which you are referring to. The Inspector>Text doesn't have a choice of fonts. The drop down doesn't issue an alert when choosing a font.
I've noticed when exporting that the font error/warning occurs when exporting. But the font, in my case Times and its variants, is nowhere to be found. I have styled nearly all the text. Even tried formatting the paragraph markers used for spacing.
How does one find an unsupported font?
(Although the warning appears, the "Replace" drop down is greyed out?)
Is there a full screen option for individual images, or simply for widgets?
Your caveats about iBA limited device targeting is spot on.
Posted 31 October 2012 - 12:47 PM
Why the quirks and little functionality? Apple is a huge company with million dollar programmers-and they can't design a way to make simple books easy?
I wish they had some Flash type functionality-make levels and interactivity fun-this is a billion dollar industry if they get it right-the fact they have not yet done it right is, to me, very odd. It is a start yes-but come on really-get with it already. Miles to go before we sleep.
Posted 31 October 2012 - 08:05 PM
Posted 05 November 2012 - 05:33 AM
I use iBooks Author to make in-house text books for education. And I find this piece of software well suited for this purpose. It is unfair (as some has commended) to compare a free piece of software with a professional tool like Adobe In Design. iBooks Author is a typical Apple tool. It has limitations, but is well designed for its purpose, in this case designing (highly advanced) texts books for the iPad. For most non-professionals Adobe ID (only competitive software I'm aware off) would be a no go, whereas iBooks Author is a fairly easy tool to master. And if I'm not wrong, in Adobe ID you have to go through the trouble of designing every page in both landscape and portrait.
But then again I haven't been through iBooks store publishing nightmare, but I suppose this apply to any eBook you try to publish, and is not iBooks Author specific.
Posted 07 December 2012 - 05:59 AM
Did you find a the best way of publishing an ID6 project to Kindle and Ipad as looking for a solution myself. Thanks