These are my notes from Martin Horejsi and Jason Neiffer‘s breakout session, “Digital Textbooks using iBooks,” on August 7, 2012, at the Blackfoot Educational Technology Conference in Missoula, Montana. MY THOUGHTS AND COMMENTS ARE IN ALL CAPS. Some of the referenced links/websites from this session are on Audio podcast recordings of this session are available on Fuel for Educational Change Agents in two parts: Part 1 (67 minutes) and Part 2 (37 minutes).

There are nuances with iBooks / idiosyncrasies
– you just have to accept them
– this is technology that is VERY new
– our expectations for tech have really gone up in recent years…
– there are some hiccups: example are audio files

Most things are 10 second solutions
– moving from ‘totally hopeless’ to back to highway speed with a Google search
– don’t be scared, but understand this is different

We’re going to address some other things in addition to iBooks author: PDFs
– you can edit PDFs pretty easily just in the PREVIEW app on a Mac

Wi drive – Wifi drive (dropbox,, etc)

Can be a huge motivator for students when they are able to create something beautiful / compelling

eBooks are becoming a more accepted means for distributing information
– meaningful alternative to the print book in the larger educational context

around 2007, we didn’t have great alternatives for putting a meaningful alternative to an analog book in your hand
– laptops and handhelds weren’t great
– in the last few years, however, we have dozens of devices that make REAL mobile reading / portable reading

What does a post-electronic reading world look like?

Moral panic over: Where does reading fit into a digital context
– conversation we need: The paper-based book may well be replaced by a backlit or non-backlit flat screen device

Makes sense for our classrooms to adopt some kind of eBook format

Biggest power of this device is giving students and teachers the power to create content themselves

Some clever classrooms are going to have some funding / fundraisers with eBooks, as an alternative to bake sales

What are your experiences with PDFs?

There were lots of dreams for iBooks Author before and when it was released
– iBooks now lets you create books with audio files, video files, and 3D models
– PDFs don’t allow those things

If you just have text and pictures, use PDFs for your eBooks: They serve those media forms well. Enhancing media? iBooks is great.

PDFs are always going to look the same

On a Mac, you can create a PDF from the print menu of any program (it’s built into the operating system)
– recommend opening PDFs in Preview first to check out how it looks
– Preview is a really powerful program
– can use thumbnail view and delete pages, or even re-order pages

On PC side there are hundreds of options for adding a “PDF printer” that is accessible from all programs
PDF Creator for Windows is Jason’s favorite (free and open source)

Word 2010 for Windows by Microsoft (and Word 2013 will) have the option to natively choose SAVE AS PDF.

Apple calls eBooks “multitouch books” which allow for different kinds of interaction beyond just audio and video playback

Device-lock is a big issue for iBooks at this point, iBooks are great if all your kids have iPads but if not it’s a big limitation
– all eBooks aren’t even

Martin now demonstrating how you can search a PDF that is hundreds of pages long for specific names and words
– this is HUGELY powerful


Publishers have not anticipated a worldwide eBook market
– some publishers have negotiated very limited rights for eBook distribution
– books are being held hostage in many cases by agreements which were signed decades ago

Now showing demo of taking Google SketchUP 3D model
– open in SketchUP, export as 3D model (NOT as Google Sketchup file)
– then it can be imported into iBooks!

iBooks Author has only been available since January 2012
– several textbook companies putting out digital versions of their textbooks for ‘fairly reasonable prices’

More than interactivity, I really like the price of the Biology price: $15 each
– most publishers now are not selling eTextbooks for less than $50


  1. Examples
    1. PDF
      1. Montana: Stories of the Land (free from Montana Historical Society)
    2. iOS Apps
      1. Lauren, The Tickle-saurus Rex ($1)
      2. Al Gore’s Our Choice ($5)
      3. The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore ($5)
    3. EPUBs
      1. Snowflake Gets Lost (direct ePUB link – enhanced ebook by OKCPS 2nd graders – background & photos)
      2. “Twins” by 8 year old Rachel Fryer (created with Story Patch and Book Creator independently on an iPad)
      3. Zander’s Soccer eBook (YPS Mrs Callison’s 6th grade English class)
      4. Lost Dog Story (YPS Mr Simon, 4-5 STEM teacher)
      5. Creatures, Plants and More! by Andrea Santilli & Woodlawn Beach Middle School 7th Grade Advanced Life Science Students 2011- 2012 (interactive field guide to northwest Florida, see the post “7th Graders Publish Their Own Textbook” from Tony Vincent for the backstory)
      6. Playing with Media: simple ideas for powerful sharing
    4. iBooks
      1. There’s a dragon in My Garage by 5 year old Samantha Harley Goes & Emily Anne Goes (free iBook ebook)
      2. MoMA Collection Highlights by MoMA, The Museum of Modern Art & Glenn D. Lowry ($10)
      3. Hot Apps 4 HOTS by Lisa Johnson & Yolanda Barker (free iBook ebook)
      4. Digital Storytelling for First Nations, Tribes, Communities and Families (direct iBooks link)
    5. eBooks Sandbox (view free eBooks and share your own)
'The future of books' photo (c) 2012, Johan Larsson - license:

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