Simply put, Apple’s iBooks Author is a free tool that allows you to create iBooks for the iPad. The application is like a traditional DTP package that’s been given an Apple makeover. It’s easy to use, yet has some powerful layout capabilities and the ability to add interactive media.
Authoring is built around customising the supplied templates – all of which are for textbooks. These follow a similar format, with a Book pane in the sidebar, encompassing the book title, a table of contents and glossary, as well as a space for an introductory video clip, which will play when the reader opens the iBook on an iPad. The main body of the iBook is divided into chapters, each with a chapter page or preface, followed by sections of pages.
Step 1: Template chooser
First download the iBooks Author App from the Apple App Store. Once installed, open it and you’ll find yourself in the Template Chooser. This offers a small selection of title types, though all are within the textbook genre. To get started, click on the template that’s closest to your own content.
Step 2: Customise the template
Templates are viewable in both portrait and landscape mode using the Orientation buttons. In the Book pane, click the My Book icon to see your cover, and type over the placeholder text with your own book title. You can also click on Intro Media and drag in a video clip from the Finder.
Step 3: Placeholder content
Content in iBooks encompasses a lot of media types including graphic objects, sound and movies, but the majority of content is, of course, text. In the chapters, sections and pages you’ll find placeholder copy. Click on the Section 1 thumbnail and double-click the text box to highlight it.
Step 4: Entering text
Hit Backspace to delete the text. You’ll notice that the first number in the list won’t have been removed. Start typing and you’ll also see that the words are in the same format as the Latin text you deleted. New pages will be added automatically as you type or add content.
Step 5: Customising text boxes
All text in an iBook must reside in a text box, but you are not confined to the layout on offer in the templates. New custom boxes can be added to the page. Just click the Text Box icon in the Toolbar, then drag your new text box to the desired position. You can resize it using the selection handles.
Step 6: Format your text
To change the formatting for each text box, click it, and then the Inspector button in the toolbar. Click the T icon to change the formatting. You can also use the built-in Styles. Select the text you want to apply the style to, then choose View > Show Styles. Click on a style to apply it to the appropriate text.
Step 7: Insert Word text
To import content from Word or Pages, select the copy in the host application, copy it and then paste it into a text box in iBooks Author. Alternatively, Choose Insert > Chapter from Pages or Word document, find the document to import and choose a layout when prompted.
Step 8: Working with images
The images in the templates are all placeholders and can be replaced by graphics in JPG, Jpeg, PNG and GIF file formats. Just drag an image into the placeholder from the Finder. iBooks Author automatically applies a mask, which can be adjusted by clicking the image and dragging the slider.
Step 9: Objects and word flow
Geometric objects can be added via the Shapes icon on the Toolbar. You can fill an object with a colour or gradient, or drag an image onto it. You can also do this via the Image Fill from the Graphic Inspector. Use the Wrap Inspector to determine how the copy flows around the object.
Step 10: Instant alpha
You can adjust object Opacity using the Graphic Inspector. When working with images, use the Instant Alpha tool to remove the background. Select the photo, then Format > Image > Instant Alpha. Click the area you want to erase and drag over it. Hold down the Option key and drag to remove the colour.
Step 11: Image gallery
iBooks Author also provides a collection of widgets for adding movies, image galleries and other interactive media. To add an image gallery, for example, choose Gallery from the Widgets selector in the Toolbar. To attach an image, select it and drag the files to the Gallery widget on the page.
Step 12: Media and movies
To add media to a page, select the Media widget from the list and drag the file in from the Finder. Ensure the file you want is either a video file with the extension .m4v (H.264), or an audio file with .m4a (AAC). Convert other types of video or audio files using QuickTime or iTunes.
Step 13: TOC and glossary
As you add chapters and sections to your iBook, they appear in the Table of Contents in the Book pane. You can add more entries by clicking the TOC section of the Document Inspector. You can also right-click on words to create a linked definition for them in the glossary, then add text or media.
Step 14: Preview and export
When finished, you can view your creation on a connected iPad by clicking the Preview button in the Toolbar. Alternatively, click on the Share menu to export it as an iBooks file (.ibooks), PDF, or plain text to share it electronically, or send the iBooks Author file (.iba) or PDF by email.
Step 15: Selling your iBook
You’ll first need to create a seller account. You can do this on the iBookstore itself where you are given the choice of creating a paid or free iTunes Connect account. Once you’re signed up, download iTunes Producer, which will allow you to upload your book and associated information to the iBookstore.
Bonus Tip: Adding questions
The Review widget, available from the Widgets pop-up menu in the toolbar, lets you add questions to your iBook. There are three types of review questions: multiple choice, where there are up to six possible answers; Drag Label to Target, with up to six text labels to be positioned in specific locations in a graphic; and Drag Thumbnail to Target, where there are a choice of six images to be dragged to a specific locations in a graphic. Readers can check their answers immediately by tapping Check Answer. You can display the Review widget as a thumbnail in the finished book – the review is displayed full-screen when it is tapped.