Last week, Apple launched a new app that allows users to build interactive and multimedia books for the iPad. Apple claims that anyone using their free iBook Author app will be able to publish beautiful electronic books. Just be warned: the content you create using the program can only be sold through Apple.
The program features six templates, which are modeled on textbooks, but they can be customized to meet the design needs of other types of content, as well. Built on a drag-and drop model, content from Word documents and image applications as well as other sources import easily and can be reformated to meet the needs of the author.
Authors can use widgets to add slideshows, videos and dynamic 3-D animations. An HTML widget allows authors to link directly to Web content, so that the material in the iBook keeps pace with updated information online. For textbook designers, quizzes can be built directly into the material.
Apple designed iBook Author to provide publishers with a way to make the kind of interactive textbooks that are in demand. The updated iBook store sold 350,000 textbooks for the iPad in the first three days after the marketplace launched.
iBook textbooks are expected to seriously shake-up the world of education publishing. According to Apple's press release, most of the iBook textbooks developed in partnership with major publishers will be sold for $14.99 or less. In addition to the very low price of the books, the published content can stay up-to-date by tapping the most current information on the Internet. Plus, kids can carry of their textbooks without feeling weighed down by pounds of paper.
Those considering using iBook Author to create an iBook should read the fine print. The Apple user liscencing agreement states that while Apple does not own your content, it does own the iBook format that you put your content into. So, if you want to distribute your electronic book for free, Apple is cool with that. If you want to sell it, you can only sell it through Apple's iBook marketplace, and they take out a portion of each sale.