January 19, 2012, will go down in the history books as one of the greatest days for education. Big call, I know, but Apple’s launch of iBooks 2 and iBooks Author heralds a new era in not only textbook production, but, more importantly, in how students embrace learning. In November last year I wrote a post about why publishers of eTextbooks were getting it all wrong. This paragraph summarises the crux of my disappointment:
Where were the embedded videos? Audio narration? Progress check quizzes with immediate feedback to a student? Animations? Animations students can modify to see different results? (obviously it does depend on what the subject matter is). Click and drag exercises? A dictionary? Or at least a glossary of the chapter’s key terminology? I could go on for a while…
In iBooks Author there is now a user-friendly yet sophisticated tool to create interactive and rich content; exactly what I envisaged above! Some of this content includes:
- interactive images / diagrams
- embedded movies
- entire Keynote presentations
- quizzes (called ‘reviews’)
- 3D objects
- glossary tool
- image gallery
In fact, constructing an interactive book in iBooks Author is a
walk stroll in the park! The only ‘hard’ aspect to the process is in planning and developing your content – this includes preparing your images, Keynote files and movies etc. The majority of this would be done outside of iBooks Author. It’s very similar to creating a website; 80% of your time is spent in developing content and resources and only 20% of the time is needed to combine said resources to construct the final product. Although I haven’t tried this yet, I’m fairly sure that iBooks Author doesn’t turn a 2D image into a 3D object – you’d have to have some other means of doing this and it’s an area in which I’m a bit vague at present. That is likely to be the topic of a future post…
This video demonstrates how to use iBooks Author. In fact, this was all I needed to get started with the program!
Now despite my excitement (I have the same feeling I experienced when I first got my iPad 18 months ago) some readers may think I’m being paid by Apple and/or hate Windows (or other platforms). I can assure you that I’m not (on all counts) and I do think that despite my enthusiasm for these new tools, especially iBooks Author, there are a number of concerns and limitations.
- You must have a Mac to run iBooks Author. Schools running Windows have no access to this software.
- Apple restrict your distribution of your iBook. Everything goes through an iTunes Connect account and for books where you charge (up to $14.99) Apple take their 30% cut. Even if you’re not worried about this, I’m not sure if it’s possible to create an in-house book in iBooks Author and then upload this to your school’s LMS for students and staff to download to their iPads. More investigation is needed to see if this is possible or not with interactive ePub files that you want to distribute for free.
- The new Textbooks category is not supported by the New Zealand iBookstore. In fact, we can’t purchase any books through iBookstore. We only have the option to download Gutenberg books from a very small selection. The interactive books created in iBooks Author are published to the Textbooks category (which also distinguishes them from plain ePub books). There’s a real worry here that students outside the USA won’t benefit from these tools!
My childhood fantasy of living on the Starship Enterprise can actually be a reality albeit with a slightly different look. In my case, the ship is ‘Titoki Street’, the technology is an iPad and the fascination, inspiration and love of learning is encapsulated in a interactive, rich-media book.
Bring it on, yet fingers crossed New Zealand students don’t miss out!!
I only have one question – why oh why didn’t this software come out at the start of the summer holidays?!