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SDLeary

Electronic Publishing and iBooks

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I just finished watching Apples Education press conference/announcement and came away really impressed. Despite several questions/issues with licensing, distribution, and file format, their new authoring program, iBooks Author, could be a real boon.

Why?

It supports tables!

Now I just downloaded the app to my Mac and started playing with it. Has anyone else delved deeper into it yet? It would seem that Gaming books would be relatively straight-forward for this app to handle.

SDLeary

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Speedy second impression...

Its PDF export is poor when viewed in Acrobat Pro X; looks fine in Preview. At least it was when I exported one of the built in templates.

And, cannot seem to find a way to start with a blank page.

SDLeary

Edited by SDLeary
Info about Acrobat Pro vs. Preview

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I fail to understand what Apple is aiming at. It seems to me that Apple attempts

to prevent the distribution of the content in an Apple format by any other publi-

sher, but I very much doubt that any other publisher would accept the content

in an Apple format anyway, because other publishers would expect the authors

to provide the content in their preferred formats. :?

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Yes, hence the licensing and distribution questions issues I mentioned in the first post.

On the other hand, if used to produce non-commercial or free items, you don't even have to go thru their ecosystem.

SDLeary

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I fail to understand what Apple is aiming at. It seems to me that Apple attempts

to prevent the distribution of the content in an Apple format by any other publi-

sher, but I very much doubt that any other publisher would accept the content

in an Apple format anyway, because other publishers would expect the authors

to provide the content in their preferred formats. :?

They seem to be trying to follow the same format that they did with iTunes. We will honestly have to see how that turns out, though they do seem to have three major Textbook publishers on-board, or have at least convinced their CEOs enough to interview for the Apple produced video shown at the event.

Until the licensing and distribution issues are ironed out, its certainly not going to be relevant, save for small independents. What I'm more interested in at the moment are the capabilities of the iBook Author program itself and what that could show us is actually possible with the (psudo) ePub format that Apple has presented. InDesign has decent capabilities, but even it has to be tweaked somewhat after export.

I would love a more open distribution scheme and ePub3 export. To be fair though, I'm not aware of any readers that support ePub3 yet.

SDLeary

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IMO there's alot wrong with iBook Authors there are getting nearly no coverage:

1) You need a mac to run iBook Authors. So your limiting your pool of who can create one. I don't care how good it is, Plenty of people will never trade in their computers for a Mac.

2) I don't hear of any talk of being cross platform. So they're shutting out Android users, despite Android having a larger share of the market currently and its only getting larger.

(there's more but these are the big 2).

The only real advantage that I can see this surviving any real length of time is that Apple/iphone users spend more on their computers/phones than PC/Android users.

But if apple doesn't fix the two big problems, there will be an open source version of it that will be cross platform, both to create and to read. And that will dominate the market.

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IMO there's alot wrong with iBook Authors there are getting nearly no coverage:

1) You need a mac to run iBook Authors. So your limiting your pool of who can create one. I don't care how good it is, Plenty of people will never trade in their computers for a Mac.

2) I don't hear of any talk of being cross platform. So they're shutting out Android users, despite Android having a larger share of the market currently and its only getting larger.

(there's more but these are the big 2).

The only real advantage that I can see this surviving any real length of time is that Apple/iphone users spend more on their computers/phones than PC/Android users.

But if apple doesn't fix the two big problems, there will be an open source version of it that will be cross platform, both to create and to read. And that will dominate the market.

Well, yes. Apple is not producing their app for Android. Neither are they producing it for Windows. Unless they get a groundswell of requests (the way they did for iTunes after the iPod was released) I don't see them producing one. Just as I don't think MS would produce their eBook production app for OS X or Android/Linux.

What I'm interested in is the fact that we now have a consumer level app that can produce very good looking, INTERACTIVE books. This can seriously improve the ability of the small publisher who doesn't have the time or ability (read cash) to learn InDesign, Quark, or all the HTML5 stuff that can enable this. In InDesign for example, in order to handle the format shift of a tablet, the layout guy has to do two different layouts, substantially increasing the cost of any given project. iBook Author seems to take care of that. And, I imagine that someone in the Linux/Android camp is now working on a similar project. MS will probably have something in the next six months to a year.

Now, Apple does have to take care of the potential licensing issues as listed in the EULA. Unless authors and potential authors cry publicly about this though... very loudly... nothing will happen.

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Well, yes. Apple is not producing their app for Android. Neither are they producing it for Windows. Unless they get a groundswell of requests (the way they did for iTunes after the iPod was released) I don't see them producing one. Just as I don't think MS would produce their eBook production app for OS X or Android/Linux.

Amazon has a kindle app for ipod/phones and android devices. You don't need a kindle device to read the book. Heck, the new kindle fire is an android. Barns and Nobles has apps that work on non-nook devices. The companies that are going to set the standard are platform independent.

Authors and publishers are reporting sales of 8-10 times as many on Amazon then they are on Apple. Its the fact that the kindle app is everywhere.

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Amazon has a kindle app for ipod/phones and android devices. You don't need a kindle device to read the book. Heck, the new kindle fire is an android. Barns and Nobles has apps that work on non-nook devices. The companies that are going to set the standard are platform independent.

Authors and publishers are reporting sales of 8-10 times as many on Amazon then they are on Apple. Its the fact that the kindle app is everywhere.

Excellent! I wish Amazon well in this! If they become "the standard" then I also congratulate them. They do have a long headstart. They were selling eBooks before Kindle. Apple still has issues on the distro side, no questions. For example, I still can't read an iBook on my Mac, whereas I can read a Kindle book.

Talk to me about production of a rich Kindle book though. How easy is that? How much does it cost to get outfitted with the right software to do it? Can the software automatically account for page orientation? Embedded 3d models? Animations? Slide show or videos?

iBook Author is certainly not the last eBook publishing app... but its probably a pivotal one.

SDLeary

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Talk to me about production of a rich Kindle book though. How easy is that? How much does it cost to get outfitted with the right software to do it? Can the software automatically account for page orientation? Embedded 3d models? Animations? Slide show or videos?

My first book published on Kindle. Not expensive. Software used to generate: Microsoft Word for the content and an old version of Photoshop to get the cover together. Page orientation is standard on all devices that can reorient themselves (aka all modern smart phones and tables). Embedded 3d models, animate and videos, the format still have a ways to go yet. Slide show: the file format can handle it, but this particular file does not have it.

However, the Beta was better than the VHS. HDDVD held more more memory than the Blue Ray. Its all about market dominance. Unless apple gets off their proverbial butts to grow their market (which they show no sign of doing since their phones are so profitable, despite them losing market share), they'll lose the way. And apple will go back to being how apple was in the mid 90's without Steve Jobs.

Basically, mass quantities of authors are not going to take the time to learn a software package to generate books for 1/10 the market until they are atleast 10x as profitable.

Edited by dmccoy1693

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Basically, mass quantities of authors are not going to take the time to learn a software package to generate books for 1/10 the market until they are atleast 10x as profitable.

Generally true. Both the winning formats in your example had the market dominance behind them.

Apple has a track record of turning things on their head though, so I wouldn't count them out. For example, digital music existed before iTunes; smartphones before the iPhone; tablets before the iPad. And while the iBooks Author is generally applicable to any ebook published with the iBookstore in mind, that Apple themselves has taken a very narrow focus. Textbooks aimed at the K-12 crowd, with interactivity used to keep the reader engaged and to display information that is not possible in pen-and-paper books.

Now, oddly enough, the greater range of the K-12 crowd (say 4-12 or 6-12) is generally where kids start to learn about and begin to pick up RPGs. The industry has had difficulty picking up new players, primarily because of other games that are interactive and engage the player, Computer Games. With iBooks Author now, or an Amazon Kindle publication app with a similar feature set in the future, a game publisher can begin to add items that might keep the attention of at least some of those that would turn to the Console instead. Perhaps spinning globes that unfold to a map of the game world, zoomable, with linked major features that take you right to their write-up when you click on them.

Oh, and thanks for the link to your eBook. I'll pick it up this weekend and take a gander!

SDLeary

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What I'm interested in is the fact that we now have a consumer level app that can produce very good looking, INTERACTIVE books. This can seriously improve the ability of the small publisher who doesn't have the time or ability (read cash) to learn InDesign, Quark, or all the HTML5 stuff that can enable this. In InDesign for example, in order to handle the format shift of a tablet, the layout guy has to do two different layouts, substantially increasing the cost of any given project.

Uhm, not necessarily. The real problem for InDesign is rather the cost of the license, not the time required to learn it. It usually takes some days to learn, and espertise in layout is more important than skill with the specific software. Ease of use is important mainly for things (fliers, business cards) you have to complete in two hours because they will pay you only a limited amount of cash. A book is something you invest in, so spending some extra hours on it is not a problem, if the end result is better.

As for doing the layout twice, it is only necessary if you want to keep the usual Letter format for books. I have solved the problem by gradually moving to digest format. Digest sized PDFs are nice to read on small devices, too. You may thing of reflowable formats as the future, but in fact, once the computing power of the devices goes up, they will simply become able to show PDFs as smoothly as a PC or Mac does. At this point, what will you prefer to see on your tablet: a reflowable format that misplaces all tables and pictures, or a shiny PDF that places all elements where the layout guy thought they belonged? Not to mention the fact that PDFs are the only true portable format that any reader can use, at the moment.

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Uhm, not necessarily. The real problem for InDesign is rather the cost of the license, not the time required to learn it. It usually takes some days to learn, and espertise in layout is more important than skill with the specific software. Ease of use is important mainly for things (fliers, business cards) you have to complete in two hours because they will pay you only a limited amount of cash. A book is something you invest in, so spending some extra hours on it is not a problem, if the end result is better.

As for doing the layout twice, it is only necessary if you want to keep the usual Letter format for books. I have solved the problem by gradually moving to digest format. Digest sized PDFs are nice to read on small devices, too. You may thing of reflowable formats as the future, but in fact, once the computing power of the devices goes up, they will simply become able to show PDFs as smoothly as a PC or Mac does. At this point, what will you prefer to see on your tablet: a reflowable format that misplaces all tables and pictures, or a shiny PDF that places all elements where the layout guy thought they belonged? Not to mention the fact that PDFs are the only true portable format that any reader can use, at the moment.

Agreed on the license cost of InDesign... not so much on the learning aspect. I will agree that anyone can get the basics of the program down in little time. Once you start delving into setting up proper Character Styles, Paragraph Styles, Object Styles, remembering to break things out into chapters so that the Book functions for TOC generation and page numbering work... this all for long documents like textbooks and game books... someone new can quickly be overwhelmed. Also, what if you are on a shoestring budget and can't afford the license? Does anyone know what Scribus is doing in this area? (serious question... just came to my mind and haven't looked at that project in some time)

Digest format could, under certain circumstances work. I have noticed though that a lot of people do use their tablets in landscape mode, and while digest certainly will fit into the horizontal space, you then end up with scrolling issues on a per page basis (depending on your PDF reader and settings of course... most don't know or care to change these for some reason).

PDF is supposed to be the standard for electronic distribution of print documents, simple letters to heavily formatted ones. It has grown beyond that of course, but you tend to make some compromises when moving from that core design. ePub should be the standard for electronic documents (even Apple reads these files in iBooks), and hopefully ePub 3 will move us more in that direction. Oddly enough, the only large alternative to Apple in the tablet space (devices and eco-system), Amazon, doesn't support ePub (someone may have released an app for the Fire, but its not a supported core type).

SDLeary

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Does anyone know what Scribus is doing in this area? (serious question... just came to my mind and haven't looked at that project in some time)

The current version has trouble only when you have to split things into chapters. I have already used it for stuff up to 80 pages, which means you can use it for RPG supplements and adventures.

All new Alephtar supplements will be made in Scribus, most likely.

I have noticed though that a lot of people do use their tablets in landscape mode,

Er, if one spends his bucks for a thing with an accelerometer in it and does not turn it when he reads books... may I say he could find a better way to throw away his hard-earned money?

PDF is supposed to be the standard for electronic distribution of print documents, simple letters to heavily formatted ones. It has grown beyond that of course, but you tend to make some compromises when moving from that core design. ePub should be the standard for electronic documents

Why?

Look at all the official documents released by governments. And look at formats accepted by governments for official communications (calls for tenders, statements, etc. etc.).

PDF. Plain and simple. Unless you want to use Word format (anathema for Mac users) or ODF. Epub? Never heard of it being used.

There already is one standard for ALL kind of documents, and it is PDF. I fail to see why one should be unable to read the last edition of the official bulletins of the EU on his portable device. And these come in PDF.

PDF is here to stay, at least for some kinds of documents. So why should devices support multiple formats, one for "officialities" (sometimes 200 page long) and one for fiction/games?

As you said, some devices do not bother to support epub. NO device can afford to not support PDF.

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The current version has trouble only when you have to split things into chapters. I have already used it for stuff up to 80 pages, which means you can use it for RPG supplements and adventures.

All new Alephtar supplements will be made in Scribus, most likely.

Sweet. I'll need to look at the project page when I get the opportunity.

Er, if one spends his bucks for a thing with an accelerometer in it and does not turn it when he reads books... may I say he could find a better way to throw away his hard-earned money?

In this case I have to blame the tablet makers as they have almost universally designed their tablets in a landscape factor, to match TVs and computer screens. Thus people think thats the way they are supposed to be used. Apple and Amazon, thankfully did not do this. Odd that these are the two most popular tablet makers at the moment! ;-)

Why?

Look at all the official documents released by governments. And look at formats accepted by governments for official communications (calls for tenders, statements, etc. etc.).

PDF. Plain and simple. Unless you want to use Word format (anathema for Mac users) or ODF. Epub? Never heard of it being used.

There already is one standard for ALL kind of documents, and it is PDF. I fail to see why one should be unable to read the last edition of the official bulletins of the EU on his portable device. And these come in PDF.

Government and business documents still need to be printed. Thus PDF is the best format, just as it would be for a game book that was meant to be printed. eBook formats are designed for electronic distribution and consumption, with little to no need to print the entire document.

PDF is here to stay, at least for some kinds of documents. So why should devices support multiple formats, one for "officialities" (sometimes 200 page long) and one for fiction/games?

AH! We are on slightly different wavelengths.

I'm not saying that any eBook format should supplant PDF, especially if those documents have a requirement (government or business documents) or a need/intent to be printed (heavily formatted digest/A4/Letter). Note that I am not even considering online/web documents, fill in forms, etc.

If a publisher (specifically game publishers) decides to release their product in an eBook format, the iBook format specifically provides them with some options that were not there before. Embedding rich media into the product to create a more visually stunning product, possibly with interactivity too (zoomable maps, hot points that take you to the town/castle/dungeon you clicked on, 3D models that show you an item or location, etc).

We do, of course, have to remember that this is a 1.0 implementation, and that things might change. Also, full ePub3 authoring and reading apps are not out there yet (to my knowledge), and that those might match or exceed the capabilities of what Apple is pushing now.

The best way to think of this is as the electronic version of the glossy 4 color printings that so many game companies are currently fond of.

SDLeary

Edited by SDLeary

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Another find, though I'm probably late to the party here, is Scrivner.

This is very much a writing tool than a design tool, but has the ability to export directly to ePub and .Mobi (they call it compiling). More importantly it gives the ability to organize and manage your project, with the ability to add files to the Project that are used as Resources. Support for breaking the project down into separate documents, footnotes/endnotes, comments, a full screen Compose mode, and other things that I'm just beginning to uncover.

SDLeary

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I've been reading this thread and others across the 'Net with interest.

Is there an application that can produce the two column format with in-line and full page graphics currently used for many RPGs but also display in a single column format with or without graphics.

Two column format is very hard to read on smaller tablets/readers so reflowing into a single column format would help a lot.

With internal links in the index rather than page numbers the change in page numbers wouldn't even matter.

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