Apple announced their iBooks Author app today as their pitch to remake “e-textbooks.”
I was a huge fan of Apple’s Hypercard when it was introduced in 1987, and used their 1990s Apple Media Tool and Open Doc systems, so I’ve been following Apple’s moves for over a decade in multimedia “publishing.”
While I thought today would be the revival of Hypercard “The Next Generation,” I don’t think it meets that goal. Below are my first thoughts on the system that I downloaded and tried this morning:
ABOVE: Sample project started related to my book The Wikipedia Revolution
1. It’s free to download through the Mac App Store, though that means you need to have Mac OS X Lion 10.7 installed. It’s like Keynote on steroids, with the ability to file into Apple’s iBookstore. Preview only happens on an iPad hooked up and “docked” to your computer. No iPhone export, and PDF export brands the file with Apple logo and “iBooks Author”
2. There is no generic file exchange with others — everything MUST go through Apple’s iBookstore, and you must sign up for an account and fill in lots of detailed info, including having a valid US tax ID. Availability to publish is not immediate, you have to be approved by Apple.
3. This is not the Hypercard replacement I, or others, thought it would be even if it is slick and has nice templates.That said, it will find a decent audience of simple book creators.
4. Being captive to the Apple closed ecosystem provides a nice paying audience and Apple’s quality control, but certainly has to give educators pause about how much Apple exerts over the process.
UPDATE: Matt Gemmell has an excellent summary of the issues around iBooks Author, most notably:
“If the book isn’t free, you must sell it via the iBookstore. You can repurpose the content and sell it via any other avenue you like, but you can only sell an iBooks Author-created book file on the iBookstore (where Apple will of course take 30%). You can distribute a free iBooks Author-created book file via any means you wish.”
More to come…