Today Apple released it’s authoring tool for iBooks Store content, iBooks Author.
I’ve been dabbling with a few previously available options for creating ePub documents. So far it has been a royal PITA to produce anything even remotely usable, and I have eventually given up as it has in no way been worth the effort. The tools that I’ve spent much too much time wrestling with was mainly Calibre and inDesign, but I’ve taken Pages for a spin aswell. All these apps seems to take pride in mangling my documents in the most surprising ways. InDesign for instance likes to convert every standard paragraph to numbered lists, no matter what settings are used.
So, it was with rather low expectations that I downloaded iBooks Author. Much to my surprise it was a largely pain-free experience, and within a couple of hours I managed to create two, not just acceptable, but quite good looking, versions of a 40 page academic paper that I’ve just been laying out in inDesign for PDF distribution (it’s for an electronic journal in educational studies that the department produces). Of course there are a few quirks that can be attributed to not knowing the application yet, and a few shortcomings in functionality that simply seems to be missing so far.
First, I started by importing a Word document. That went surprisingly well, although the paragraph styles palette got littered by imported Word formats, and the body text got styled with character level formats that took some determination to get rid of (I sorely missed inDesigns method for removing local styling). But tables and figures imported quite nicely. On the first try I overlooked that landscape and portrait modes can be edited separately so the portrait version showed some peculiarities.
For the second attempt I tried copy-and-paste straight from the inDesign document. This had the advantage of getting body copy free from local formatting, but also meant the consequence of loosing all local formatting. For instance, I had to manually re-apply all cursivations.
All in all I found the process quite straightforward compared to my previous experience in this area. Being accustomed to inDesign I felt lacking the detailed control of all the details that I’m used to have. The system for paragraph styles and how they interact with the table of contents seemed a bit convoluted, but might be a product of me bringing expectations from the Adobe way and I expect that some more time working with the software will be enough to figure out a suitable workflow.
Now, there’s already heated conversations online about the allegedly outrageous EULA that won’t allow commercial publication of output from iBooks Author outside Apples iBook Store. Frankly, I don’t see what there is to be upset by. Apple provides an authoring tool, for free, for producing e-books for the iOS app iBooks (the format is based on ePub, but is proprietary for iBooks). Apple don’t claim ownership, or copyright, of the contents. You can pour that same text into any ePub producing app of choice and sell it wherever you like. What they do require is that the resulting output from their (free) authoring tool, if, and only if, you want to charge for it, has to be sold through the iBooks store. To me this seems reasonable.