Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

Underwhelmed by iBooks Author Software

This afternoon I started a new eBook project using a collection of favorite Bible verses from the Friday morning men’s group at our church. The idea is pretty simple: Include verses from the NLT and MSG translations, complying with the copyright permissions for each provided on the Bible website. Along with the verses, include a related and appropriate image licensed “Attribution-Only” on Flickr. I spent 4 or 5 hours on this project this afternoon and evening, and completed half the project including all the Old Testament verses. You can download my ePUB draft (at this point) from my public DropBox folder, using the shortened URL If you have an iPad you can directly load that web link in Safari for iPad and after downloading the 7.1 MB file, you will be prompted to “Open in iBooks.” In this post I’ll briefly describe why I chose to author this eBook in Apple’s Pages software instead of iBooks Author software, and why I’m “underwhelmed” by the 1.0 version of iBooks Author.

St Michaels Cathedral by paul (dex), on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  paul (dex) 

The most glaring omission from the 1.0 version of iBooks Author is the ability to export ebooks in EPUB format. It’s not there.

iBooks Author - EXPORT

The only export formats iBooks Author 1.0 supports are iBooks, PDF, and plain text documents.

iBooks Author doesn't support ePUB Export

This is by design by Apple, but in my opinion it’s a mistake. Hopefully Apple will remedy this in the 2.0 version. We (as educators) need to make our voices heard and insist (whether we’re K-12 or college/university educators) that it’s not acceptable for Apple to ignore and deliberately try to undermine the EPUB standard for eBooks. We all understand Apple is a corporation and wants to make lots of money, but far more is at stake when it comes to digital curriculum than just income for a global corporation. As educators, learners and students, we need the ability to create standards-based e-texts which are compatible on MULTIPLE devices, not just iPads, iPhones and iPod Touches. I recommend Mathew Ingram‘s January 19th post for GigaOM, “Do we want textbooks to live in Apple’s walled garden?” for more background on these issues. My answer to Mathew’s rhetorical question is a resounding “No: Not exclusively.”

In the case of my new eBook project, I not only want to distribute this FREE eBook on Apple’s iBookstore, I also want to distribute it on, Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, and openly on the web. Dan Wineman is 100% correct in calling out the ridiculous, “over the top” restrictions Apple is trying to impose on curriculum authors in his post, “The Unprecedented Audacity of the iBooks Author EULA.”

Since I’m unwilling to restrict the intellectual property roaming potential of this new eBook to “just” Apple’s iBookstore, I chose to create it using Apple’s Pages software. I followed the same procedures I used in the summer of 2011 to write and publish, “Playing with Media: simple ideas for powerful sharing.” For more background and specific steps about how to create enhanced/multimedia eBooks with Apple’s Pages as well as distribute eBooks on Amazon and Barnes & Noble’s Nook eStore, please check out:

These and additional links are available on my conference breakout session curriculum for “Creating MultiMedia eBooks.” (I’d be delighted to share this session with educators at your conference or other professional development event, btw!)

As educators, we have moral obligations to share. Open Educational Resources (OER) are and will increasingly disrupt traditional publishing companies’ revenue streams by allowing learners around the world to collaborate and share digital curriculum. The 1.0 release of Apple’s iBooks Author software is configured to undermine rather than support OER and the learning revolution.

Apple education executives, I call on you to change this in iBooks Author 2.0. Change the EULA so publishers are not locked into ONLY publishing on the iBookstore, and add an EXPORT TO EPUB feature like Apple programmers include with Pages ’09. Until those changes are made, I’m going to remain UNDERWHELMED by iBooks Author.

(The first image in this post was formatted with Creative Commons attribution using ImageCodr.)

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , ,

If you enjoyed this post and found it useful, subscribe to Wes’ free newsletter. Check out Wes’ video tutorial library, “Playing with Media.” Information about more ways to learn with Dr. Wesley Fryer are available on

On this day..



, , ,




7 responses to “Underwhelmed by iBooks Author Software”

  1. Joshua Williams Avatar

    There are several things about version 1.0 of iBooks Author that can and should be improved. Several technical issues exist (inability for widgets to access externally hosted HTML data, formatting bugs, etc.) which are typical of first-generation software in my experience. A second “tier” of shortcomings include things that I feel like would be natural to expect from the software, but for some reason do not exist or or are not enabled. For me, these include things like proper handling of footnotes and references. In this specific example, I attribute that to code that is still to unreliable for inclusion. The third tier of shortcomings is where I sense most of your frustrations. These are features that seem intentionally and explicitly left out or forbidden by Apple. Some of my thoughts on this tier are:

    1. Apple has created a tool, and provided it for free, for the manipulation and formatting of content. They are in a competitive marketplace with other companies such as Amazon, and while it may be less convenient for me, I can understand why Apple would not necessarily embrace the idea of a tool they created being used to enrich a competitor. Nothing seems to prevent us from using Author to manipulate and produce content in Apple’s .iBooks format and distributing it for free in any way we choose, which is actually an improvement over the terms of the App Store, in my opinion. I paraphrase it as, “Look, if you want to create and distribute content for free, go for it in any way you want. But if you want to use our tool to make money, we just want you to use our service exclusively and not help our competitors make money along the way. We still have an obligation to our shareholders, after all.”

    2. ePUB v3 is really good, but doesn’t quite support all of the features that iBooks Author is capable of including. These are mostly trivial (gutter controls), so I think this can and will change in a future release. When the first version of Aperture was released, Apple did not include support for many of the features it boasts today. They were phased in as the product matured. That is what I expect with Author. In the meantime, I expect a competitor to Author to be produced by the open source community rather quickly. This will move things along with Author in much the same wayAdobe’s Lightroom did with Aperture.

    3. There are almost certainly reasons and rationale for decisions about features and the EULA which we don’t know about. For reasons not shared with us, Apple felt compelled to sign-on the major textbook publishing companies as part of this project. Those reasons notwithstanding, it’s possible that some of these terms were crafted as a part of negotiations with these third parties. As a hypothetical (and I have no reason to think this actually may have happened), suppose Pearson signed an contract with Apple that included an agreement that they would sell iBooks formatted titles for no more than $14.99 each, and that their interactive eTextbook titles would be exclusively available via Apple. Pearson might have then pressed Apple to modify the EULA to ensure that other companies and authors would not benefit from more favorable terms that would create a competitive advantage (Harcourt or Wes Fryer using Author to create a great title that is sold elsewhere for 16.99 and the author/publisher keeps 90% of the revenue instead of 70%). If each version sold a million copies, that example would create an almost $5 million advantage over Pearson. It’s personally unsavory for me to include big money in the discussion of student learning, but that’s the reality of the context. I’m just trying to find possible explanations. 

    Most of all, though, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I look forward to reading more of your thoughts and continuing the discussion.  



  2. David Avatar

    Apple is a for profit company and as a stockholder I have no desire for Apple to dilute its profitability by making free software that would allow users to create books that could work on competing hardware. As a teacher I understand that a fully open source alternative might sometimes be more appropriate than a proprietary one. But even as a teacher I don’t expect corporations to give something for nothing. No publisher ever has. Your expectations are out of line.

  3. Andy Rush Avatar
    Andy Rush

    I agree that more export formats should be supported. I would include export to HTML5. However I think that Apple is in many ways encouraging people to publish their books for free, and with that there are no restrictions for distribution. See Alex Lindsay’s and Mike Elgan’s posts.

    (Alex Lindsay at Google Plus)

    (Mike Elgan)

  4. Wesley Fryer Avatar

    Thanks for sharing those links. Both are excellent reads.

  5. Miguel Guhlin Avatar
    Miguel Guhlin

    Wes, I don’t see your expectations as being out of line with education. If a company wants to sell to a particular crowd, then it should cater to their needs and desires. Apple could have sold it’s proprietary ebook maker for a $1 and quickly recaptured any heartache involved in embedding an ePub SAVE AS/Export ePub feature. Furthermore, I would have bought it.

    Now, even though my preferred hardware is Mac, I continue to have to depend on the free, open source community to do what Apple should have planned ahead of time–meet the needs of the users, not myopic stockholders focused on profit. After all, if profit was the only motive, how would real business folks make any money? Focus on awesome service, product that meets our needs, and users will pay. Don’t, and we’ll blog and moan about it.
    With appreciation for your writing,
    Miguel Guhlin
    Around the

  6. Laandt Avatar

    You people are funny. You complain about Apple’s EULA like a bunch of children Christmas morning after opening a gift you didn’t want. Then, after ranting that Apple is somehow limiting you, you go use pages to create the very thing you were bitching about that you couldn’t make with Author. Apple is not restricting your ability to publish your book anywhere. They’re saying “if you use our FREE SOFTWARE to generate a book it can only be sold in our store.” How this is a problem is beyond me sine the books generated by the software can only be read on an iPad anyway

  7. Rose Avatar

    Also, you Authors that use PCs instead of Macs, Forget it. You do not get to publish for the Ipad.