Is Apple's eBook Tool Right for Graphic Designers?
While it's true that more print books than electronic books were sold last year, eBooks are still big business, and a potential income source for graphic designers. That's one reason why Apple's new software, called iBooks Author, is worthy of your attention.
Like most Apple programs, iBooks Author is meant to be easy to use, a term that doesn't describe most other eBook-creation apps. You can begin with the templates that come with iBooks Author, or you can create your own page layouts. Here are the six templates to choose from:
To add text, still images (single ones and slideshows), charts, tables, animations, movies, and 3D and interactive objects, you either drag and drop or click the relevant Widget. Apple says you can import files from Apple Pages and Microsoft Word, but some other programs (such as Adobe InDesign and QuarkXPress) are conspicuously absent from the "supported" list.
While iBooks Author gives you some control over your layout — for example, there are alignment guides, styles, and the ability to mask images — it lacks some of the more sophisticated controls of traditional (and more mature) page-layout apps. The screenshots below give you a feel for the iBooks Author environment. To see a larger version of a screenshot, just click on it.
iBooks Author requires a Mac running OS X 10.7 (Lion). If you have the requisite hardware and software, it costs you nothing to try iBooks Author. The app is a free download, the templates are free, it's free to preview your publications, and uploading your finished product to Apple's iBookstore is also free.
Before you drop all your existing clients and devote yourself to eBook design and production, consider these points:
• Publications created with iBooks Author can be read only by iBooks 2 and only on the iPad.
• Publications created with iBooks Author can be sold only via Apple's channels, such as the iBookstore. That's written into the End User License Agreement. And because of some questionable wording in that EULA, there may even a chance that by signing it, you're giving Apple control over your content. Read this blog post for more speculation on this point.
• If you sell your eBook on the iBookstore (as opposed to giving it away for free), Apple will still take its customary 30% cut.
• Finally, iBooks Author is only one day old. This is both bad news — new apps always have rough edges — and good news — it could grow into a tremendously useful and enjoyable tool. We'll be keeping an eye on it as it develops.