USA Today’s Baig: Apple scores with iPad textbooks and iBooks Author for Mac

“Two weeks ago, Apple declared its intention to be at the head of the class, with the unveiling of the iBooks 2 for iPad app and the iBooks textbooks that are the first to exploit the app,” Edward C. Baig reports for USA Today.

“I’ve spent time diving into some of these textbooks on the original iPad and the iPad 2. Initial works in algebra, biology and chemistry come from major educational publishers McGraw-Hill and Pearson. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and DK are also early publishing partners (the latter produces books on dinosaurs, insects and mammals),” Baig reports. “Though I encountered some unfortunate crashes and bugs — Apple has a software fix coming soon — multitouch digital textbooks, when working smoothly, are engaging in ways that were simply not possible with the textbooks I grew up with. Digital versions promise instant search and easy navigation. They’re rich in interactive animations, pictures and videos. It’s better to see an animated tour of the genome in E.O. Wilson’s Life on Earth than just to read about it. The various books let you consult study cards, create bookmarks, drag your finger to highlight passages and add notes. And textbook authors can update material to keep it current.”

Baig reports, “The other obvious A-plus benefit, true of any e-book but especially comforting to a student schlepping from class to class, is that you can lug the digital equivalents of heavy print textbooks without breaking your back… To encourage development, Apple launched iBooks Author, a free authoring tool for the Mac that encourages anyone to produce their own iBook textbooks, cookbooks, how-tos and other works. Apple says more than 600,000 copies of the tool have been downloaded since launch. Authors can distribute the books for free. But if they put the iBook textbook up for sale, they must do so through Apple’s iBookstore. (Authors can use the content in other digital and print formats, Apple says.) So the supply of digital textbooks should look a lot better by next school year.”

Read more in the full review here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Carl H.” for the heads up.]


  1. Does an author retain complete copyrights to a book published originally through iBooks? I am assuming  takes its 30% from any sales through their channels…is that correct?

    1. … situation. If you create a book using iBook Author you may only publish THAT BOOK through iTunes.
      Any book published via iTunes may be given away (for free) or sold, with a 30%(?) cut going to Apple.
      Apple doesn’t exactly “own” your work, just a cut of the sales. And iBook Author will only publish TO Apple’s store, so the final result is of limited use. BUT! You can do all the work in iBook Author then – with or without actually publishing – extract the content and input that content into a different publishing package. YMMV. This would be fine by Apple.

      1. Just to clarify…

        It’s not “THAT BOOK”


        You can sell your book in any format you want, any where you want, except the iBook version must be sold in the iBookstore.

      2. iBook Author also lets you save the published book, put it on your website, email it to friends, and export to pdf. As long as you aren’t selling it, you have lots of options. I am not sure what Apple would say about schools and colleges creating textbooks and distributing them “free” to their students who have paid an e-book “fee.” It will be interesting to see how this comes out

  2. If Apple takes advantage of first mover status and gets this one right there is no way any investor can say that Apple has no future growth potential if Apple can get iPads or educational equivalent models into thousands of K-12 schools throughout the U.S. The iPad assembly factories in China and Brazil wouldn’t be able to build them fast enough and it would be a good incentive for Apple to possibly have an assembly factory in the U.S. just for show.

    Apple absolutely must not mess up with this chance and allow some company like Samsung, Acer, Motorola or Microsoft and partners to just walk in and take it away from Apple. Apple has nearly everything in place to make this digital textbook initiative work for students and schools and Apple revenue will just rocket to the moon. I’m so hoping Apple doesn’t screw this one up and get upstaged by some cheap Android tablet vendor.

    1. I’m not sure how you conclude that Apple “screwed up” when it comes to Android. I think Apple has been battling a pretty good fight so far. If you think the world was going to stop everything and not compete with Apple, level playing field or not, you’re sadly mistaken.

  3. Although iBook Author looks promising i find it hard to believe that the text books shown at the event were produced using it.
    I’ve been playing with it for a few days and i find that inserting a few large images slows it down to a crawl.
    Its not too shocking for a 1.0 release but if Pearson, McGraw Hill, etc. didn’t use it i wish Apple was more open about it.

    1. “I’ve been playing with it for a few days and i find that inserting a few large images slows it down to a crawl.”

      by “large images” what do you mean?
      Is your hardware very old? What processor?

      1. Large meaning 300dpi cmyk & 1200dpi bitmap images.
        Hardware is 2010 27″ iMac w/8GB’s of RAM.
        Fast enough to do this type of work very efficiently in latest versions of InDesign & Photoshop.
        Yes i could’ve res’d the images down from the existing hi-res print ready versions but i wanted to see how it would handle the types of images that Publishing Creative departments like Pearson’s & McGraw Hill’s would be using.

          1. yes that’s correct but i’m just testing it.
            For for my initial test i used files that i had at my disposable.
            If the software chokes on a few large images, then it stands to reason that it may choke on smaller images over many chapters. It may not but i guess i’ll find out soon enough. Let me know what your testing shows up.

          1. Maybe. You have to remember that the images they use have been spec’d for print and their images are stored in an Asset Mgmt system (DAM).
            The goal would be to keep one master image that can be repurposed for different destinations (I could automate the conversion via my DAM).
            If possible you would want the software to convert the imported images to the correct format for the intended output.
            Our Master Images are kept in the original color space and resolution, which is usually RGB 300dpi for color (Can be CMYK, depends on the source) and Bitmap (text scans) 1200dpi.
            Exporting from InDesign to epub for example, will process your images to the appropriate format and res.
            Yes iBook Author is version 1.0 and it’s free, so I was curious to see what how it would handle our images without me having to do extra work and create extra images just for importing.
            But again, if the software chokes on a few large images, i would think it will have the same problem on many smaller images for a complete book. It will be interesting to find out.

    2. Agreed. I inserted some large uncompressed TIFFs, a M4V or two and ended up spending more time looking at the beachball than actually working.

      So I extracted my text and started again. This time I used a third-party template that is less insanely heavy on the purely decorative graphics than those supplied by Apple. I resized and down-resolutioned (is that a word? Well, it is now) the graphics and the multimedia and so far Author seems to be behaving itself.

      My guess is that Author is saving the original files internally in case that retina iPad ever shows up and higher-spec medias are required. Now link this to Lion’s mania for constantly saving versions and you have a recipe for Gigabyte-sized files being written to disk *all the time*. I was also wondering where my (metered) bandwidth was going until I moved my project out of Dropbox …

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