In a packed special event launching the iPad mini, Apple announced new versions of iBooks and iBooks Author.
iBooks Author is Apple’s free ebook creation tool. Much more than just an ePub exporter, the program enables the compilation of very rich media experiences which can be bundled and uploaded directly to iTunes Connect for sale on the iBooks store.
The new 2.0 version announced yesterday adds several enhancements, including:
- A new portrait only theme
- Embedded fonts, allowing publishers to further enhance their editions
- Mathematical formulas, a huge bonus for text books
- Enhanced previewing with the ability to create fully functioning demo books prior to uploading to iTunes connect
- Versioning, for management of updates to books
Clearly this update is aimed largely at textbook publishers, and it’s surely no coincidence it was launched at the same time as the iPad mini. The smaller cheaper tablet is certain to find its way into classrooms (Apple claim the existing iPad is already in use in more than 2,500 schools in the USA alone).
Unfortunately the new release doesn’t appear to make the process of publishing to iBooks any easier for indie authors, who still need to source an ISBN number for their works, as well as create an iTunes connect account and deal with all of the administration that goes along with that.
Also released yesterday was iBooks 3.0 for iPhone and iPad.
Despite the 3.0 tag, this is a fairly minor update. The headline changes are:
- Additional language support, including Chinese, Japanese, and Korean
- Continuous scrolling mode
- iCloud integration
- Automatic book updates
- Better dictionary integration
- Social network integration with Twitter, Facebook, as well as integration with iMessage and Mail
The iCloud integration almost brings iBooks in line with the Kindle app in that like the Kindle ecosystem, all iBooks purchases are now synchronised with the cloud – no more iTunes syncing required to get your books on all your iOS devices. Unlike the Kindle though, there is no equivalent of “Cloud Reader”, so there’s still no way to read your iBooks on a Mac (or PC).
The scrolling mode is a strange addition. We assume it’s to make one-handed reading easier on the iPhone and iPad mini. Personally I hate to scroll, pagination is where it’s at, but I suppose it makes sense for some. What would make it more useful would be if the text could be set to scroll continuously without touching it, auto cue style. Maybe in 3.1?
Overall, there’s nothing mindblowing in either of these book app updates. Refinement and evolution rather than revolution, which is the Apple way. Given both apps are free, we certainly can’t complain. It’s great to see the whole iBooks environment developing into a credible competitor to the Kindle store.