Apple got a lot of attention for yesterday's iOS 8.4 update, but that wasn't the only release to come down the pipe.
The company also released a new version of iBooks Author which finally gave that OSX app the ability to make ebooks designed to fit the iPhone's screen.
Authors and publishers can now use iBooks Author to create fixed layout ebooks which look good on the iPhone's screen.
Update: I'm running slow this morning and I missed the real story here, which is that iBooks Author now offers Epub templates which can be exported as Epub3 files. (I learned this thanks to an email from a reader; thanks, Kira!) Those files work on the iPhone, but they will also work on a lot of other reading apps including Adobe Digital Editions for Windows and iOS.
According to Apple, the new Epub templates:
- Export to ePub3 format.
- Allow the reader to read in both paginated and scrolling view.
- Allow the reader to change the font size in the book.
- Can include some interactive widgets, such as movies, audio clips, HTML, and image galleries.
- Can be viewed in any ePub reader that supports ePub3.
That's a huge change for Apple, and it changes the entire tone of this release. With that in mind, I've deleted some irrelevant parts of the post. You can find a new conclusion at the end of the post which better reflects the real story.
Talking New Media started working with the new templates yesterday, and they report that the templates are far less capable than what a developer can do when creating an ebook for the iPad:
I’m discovering serious problems with the new iBooks Author and its support of the iPhone. I found that if you use one of the ePub templates and have a video that you want to autoplay it will. If you have built a book with one of the older templates and have an autoplay video it will not autoplay. Big problem.
The other thing I noticed is that when building an eBook using one of the older templates you could disable portrait, or what they now call scrolling view. This can’t be done with the new ePub templates (not surprising since it is ePub). But this means you really cannot design for landscape, something required by many designers.
What we have here is a compromise: you can publish new books with limited design for the iPhone, and have your older eBooks work on the iPhone. But if you want a truly interactive eBook you’ll still have to design for the iPad. That may be disappointing news to many publishers, what with iPad sales declining.
So Apple will now let you make an Epub3 file?
That's a huge deal, and I'm not exaggerating. When iBooks Author launched in early 2012 it only made ebooks for the iPad. It was a tool for making iBooks-format digital textbooks, and Apple launched it to support their goal of selling more iPads to schools.
Last week iBooks Author only made ebooks which worked only on Apple hardware. Now it can make ebooks which work everywhere. They won't be as pretty as what you can make for the iPad but they should work.
Apple has torn down part of one of their walled gardens, and enabled anyone working in that garden to produce content for other devices. Something tells me they have assessed their location in the market and decided that they would rather have creators use their tools to make ebooks for other platforms rather than see creators use someone else's (possibly inferior) tools.
iBooks Author is free in the Mac App Store.