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First Look: Apple's new iBooks Author

Apple has released its new iBooks Author in the Mac App Store for free, enabling users to create dynamic, multimedia ebooks targeted for iPad deployment.

The new iBooks Author is billed as a tool to "create and publish amazing Multi-Touch books for iPad," but can also export to a standard PDF viewable anywhere. The main thrust is in creating ebook titles for the iBookstore.

Getting published

Apple notes, "You can request that your book be made available for public download by submitting it to the iBookstore," which requires creating a seller account, downloading iTunes Producer (used to upload content to the iTunes Store), and signing a publisher contract.

Submitted books must offer a free sample, although the publisher can decide how much and what content to offer in this sample. The file limit for published books is 2 GB, but Apple recommends that authors keep their ebooks under 1 GB and notes that readers on 3G networks are limited to downloads of 20 MB or less.

Books published through iBooks are protected with iTunes' FairPlay which "helps prevent unauthorized duplication of your book," but Apple adds that "movies and audio included in HTML widgets are not DRM protected."

Authors can also export book files they can distribute on their own, in addition to exporting a PDF or the plain text of their work.

Authoring books

The new iBooks Author app interface will be very familiar to iWork users, with an appearance similar to Keynote and text editing features virtually identical to Pages.

Like other iWork apps, when opened it presents a template chooser offering a half dozen professionally designed textbook types named basic, contemporary, modern type, classic, editorial and craft.

In the portrait orientation, iBooks Author presents the text of the book (below is the classic template) as it would appear on an iPad, with a primarily text-based focus.

Set to landscape orientation (from the tool bar), the presentation is laid out more akin to Keynote slides, with all photos, movies and other content appearing inline.

The basic features of template includes the Book Title graphics, "Intro Media," which is an introductory image or video that plays when the book is opened, a Table of Contents generated automatically as you create new chapters and sections of content, and a Glossary of terms that includes a definition, links to related glossary terms, and an index of where the word appears in the text.

For an immediate preview of how the book looks on an iPad, the user can simply plug in an iPad via USB and click the Preview toolbar button. A dialog sheet drops down to select the device, and as long as the connected iPad has the iBooks 2.0 app running, the in-progress book will appear in its iBooks library as a viewable title labeled "proof."

Exported as a text file, the document appears as an ".ibooks" document. It's also possible to export an ".iba" file for moving the book project to another Mac running iBooks Author.

There's currently no support for importing and converting existing complex documents, such as PDFs or EPUB ebooks; only basic support of text input, including content from Word or Pages documents.

On page 2 of 2: Working with iBooks Author