When it comes to creative software, from my perspective, there are two important factors — the most important factors, really. They are ease of use and power — interdependent in that creative software can be good with one but not the other, yet not nearly as good when both are present. For example, Microsoft Paint is an easy to use program but all but the most skilled artists would find it difficult to make something really beautiful with it. Final Cut is one of the most powerful pieces of software for editing video but I have found it extremely difficult to do even the most simple task.
I am happy to say that I have found iBooks Author to be a perfect combination of ease of use and power. I have only had it since Sunday morning and I am already blown away by what I have been able to make with it. It is quite clear that Apple wants people to start making fun and educational iBooks right out of the box, excuse the antiquated expression.
I am reminded of Hyperstudio in how fantastic this software is — and having searched for Hyperstudio online just now, I am not surprised to see that over twenty years later it is still being made. I downloaded iBooks Author on Sunday morning from the App Store and launched it right away. It offered me six templates from which to choose with names like Modern Type, Craft, and Classic. The examples they give with the templates are more explanatory than the names of the templates. I chose the Modern Type template just because I liked the look of the Algebra book.
iBooks Author sets up a few pages along with a cover, table of contents, and glossary. Once you have set up and started writing and adding media, it is easy to add an extra page every time you would like to add one. Here is a point that needs to be addressed — you can only add exactly one point and so if it happens that you know right from the onset that you will need to add one hundred pages, you will have to use the add page function that many times — not good!
Another point I’d like to address is the insert function which seems to address every single thing that can be inserted in an iBook — interactive image, chart, etc — but I could not find a simple way to insert a simple image into the iBook. I finally figured out that you have to click on the “choose” option and then select the image that you wish to insert. Once you do this you can move the image anywhere around the page and it will displace text appropriately without having any sort of irritating formatting functionality (with a dozen similar sounding names that move your text around the photo in ways that are not exactly how you want it.
I am very excited about the widget functionality of iBooks Author. There is, for example, a quiz widget that allows you to test the reader of the iBook on anything you want. I can just imagine a chemistry textbook that puts the user to the test at the end of each chapter. If the author of said textbook determines that the quiz does not adequately test the reader, the quiz can be updated. The fact that the book can be updated at any point is another brilliant point. A history teacher can write a fantastic book about the war in Afghanistan and suddenly need to change it when a news event occurs — if this were a print book, the teacher might have to wait until the following year to update the book. The iBook could be updated by the next day.
The images that you see in this review are from a sample short book that I wrote on Sunday morning on the topic of my toddler Chaim Yosef Davidescu refusing to go back to sleep. I was able to create this iBook with a minimal amount of effort in about fifteen or so minutes. I was then able to connect my iPad to the Mac and could see exactly how the iBook would look on it, were I serious about publishing a book about my occasionally cranky toddler. Rest assured that I will not be publishing the book but you can see almost all of it in this review. I really recommend that you get the iBooks Author if you have any intention of getting iBooks in the Apple iBooks store — I imagine that even a scholarly journal or literary periodical could be easily published using the iBooks Author.