Over in New York at the Guggenheim Museum, the mystery of Apple's education event was put to bed today with the tech giant unleashing iBooks 2 - "a new textbook experience for iPad."
But it was the iBooks Author Mac app part of Phil Schiller's presentation that intrigued us the most. The chance to create and publish our own iBooks on our MacBooks. Well, we just couldn't wait to get started.....
- Mac OS X
- Mac App Store
The first thing we have to say about iBooks Author is that we can't believe that it's free. Actually, we can, as Apple is about to tie a heck of a lot more people into its impossible-to-escape ecosystem and make itself a whopping great amount of cash from its cut of the new iBooks that get published at the same time.
What we mean is, this is an incredibly rich and detailed app to be giving away. It's not a simple drag and drop program (although, this being a Mac app, expect to be dragging and dropping like crazy). Instead, it's a professional looking publication tool with more media options than a Cambridge graduate with a 2:1 in digital studies.
The first thing that hits you is that it looks like a funked up version of Microsoft PowerPoint. And it plays a bit like it too, first offering you some template options to kick-start your project and then providing you with a main viewing panel and thumbnails down the left hand side, making it easy to jump between pages whilst you are working away.
And, like PowerPoint, it's easy to type in text and add pictures, charts and other objects. But it's these objects that set iBooks Author apart from its ageing Microsoft rival. Called simply "Widgets" this is where you can make sure iBooks interactive and iPad magical. You can add interactive images, galleries, HTML code, keynote presentations, 3D images and review panels.
If you do want to add media, it's as simple as dragging from your Mac's folders, or by using the OS X Lion connected apps functionality. It's easy enough to throw in music from iTunes, photos from iPhoto and videos from iMovie.
For the more academic writers, it is possible to create a glossary as you type but, if you're the lazy type, you can just chuck words in straight from Pages or Word.
Don't bank on your work beating the Apple approval process and being published if you simply plagiarise though. Although, you can always see what your book would look like on the iBooks iPad app by connecting your tablet and previewing it using the app.
If you're an iTunes U user, there's no need to have the book published to let others see it though; you can simply export it and share. This is bound to be handy for lecturers and teachers putting together study materials for their fanboy and fangirl students. Anyone can also export their iBook as a PDF file.
It's a brilliant app and one that deserves a far more detailed exploration than we have afforded it already, so be sure to check back on Pocket-lint soon for a more comprehensive guide.
In the meantime, download it, and have a play around. It's free after all.