Amazon released the first major update for their three-month-old textbook creation app today, and it's finally getting useful.
Kindle Textbook Creator still accepts only PDF as the source file, and it's still listed as being in beta, but now the tool lets educators embed video and audio files in the e-textbooks they make. It also now supports pop-up images.
I've tested the app and I can confirm that you can embed audio. The app freezes while the media is being embedded in the project ebook file (it takes a while), but then it unlocks and lets you move the audio icon or video window around. You can also change the media's title or description (see the user manual for more info).
What's more, KTC also gained a new option for building the table of contents. You have the option of ticking a checkbox to choose which pages are added to the e-textbook's TOC. (Hat tip to R. Scot Johns for catching this; it wasn't mentioned in the changelog.)
You can download the app from Amazon.
This app is still a far cry from iBooks Author, which lets you embed custom fonts, equations, media, quizzes, and html and Keynote widgets, but KTC has a couple advantages of its own.
Kindle Textbook Creator runs on Windows and OSX, and it creates ebooks which can be read in the Kindle apps for Android, iOS, PC, and OSX as well as Fire tablets. It is specific to the Kindle platform, but at least it offers more hardware choices.
And now it offers more media options.
When Kindle Textbook Creator launched in January many bloggers thought that this was the start of a textbook war between Amazon and Apple. I still don't see that particular conflict happening, for obvious reasons, but Amazon is clearly more interested in e-textbooks than I had previously expected.
Amazon already sold digital textbooks, and now they are also making it easier for educators to publisher their own textbooks on the Kindle platform. It's hard to say what is coming next, but I think we can expect Amazon to make a play for schools and the curricula market.
In 2012 Amazon released WhisperCast, a tool for managing content on a fleet of Kindles and Fire tablets. And then in 2013 Amazon acquired TenMarks, an edtech startup which developed a math curriculum.
Would anyone care to guess what their next step will be?