October 30, 2013 Last Updated 3:48 pm

Mac users create workarounds to Apple’s new versions of iWork and iBooks Author

They say you get what you pay for, and in the case of the newest versions of both iWork and iBooks Author, you are now getting less. As a result Mac owners, and publishers, are scrambling to figure out how to salvage their projects.

The problem with iBooks Author is that the new version 2.1 no longer embeds custom fonts into eBooks. Apple, I have been told, will be issuing an update, but now that several days have gone by and no update has appeared publishers are now moving on.

One user has posted a workaround on the Apple discussion boards, and because Apple has been known to pull comments I thought it would be wise to repost that here (some language and terms corrected):

This is a small guide to recover a book poisoned by iBooks Author 2.1

  1. Retrieve one copy of iBooks Author 2.0 from Time Machine. Delete iBooks Author 2.1.
  2. Open a book poisoned by iBooks Author 2.1
  3. Open your custom template or a new document in iBooks Author 2.0
  4. From the sidebar, copy and paste the chapters from the poisoned document to the new document. You have to do it one by one.
  5. Copy and paste the cover
  6. You’ll have to manually rebuild the glossary
  7. You will, also, have to re-enter the book information in the Document Inspector tab.
  8. Review the book. Preview with your iPad to make sure everything is OK.

The whole process should take a few minutes.

Does this work? Probably, but I have not tried it yet.  I have rescued a copy of iBA 2.0 myself from my back-ups and found that it can not fix a file already touched by 2.1 so that book would have to be rebuilt using the older version of iBA (as the workaround above says).

The advice I was given, however, was to hold off from rebuilding eBooks, presumably because an update may fix the custom font embedding issue.

Pages-screen-update-lgPublishers are generally patient in comparison to the public, in general. And the changes Apple have brought to iWork with the latest update for Mavericks has users howling inside the Apple discussion boards. One thread in the Pages area is now 59 pages in length.

The problem is the number of features now missing from Pages – some templates, reordering pages through dragging, facing pages, etc. As I have long since stopped using work processors for anything other than press releases and printing envelopes, I can not comment on the issues with Pages or Keynote or Numbers, but users are also posting workarounds to using the new versions of the software.

The Verge, CNET, Computerworld and others have weighed in on the controversial update. One thing they seem to agree on is that the move to the free model, which at first looked like would hurt Microsoft, now appears to be the gift from the Gods to the folks in Redmond, possibly driving thousands of Mac users back into the arms of Microsoft Office (luckily, the price is much lower than it used to be).

I don’t think we’ll ever get an answer from Apple as to why these issues have arisen with the new versions of the software so users are speculating, often ridiculously so. The best explanation I have read so far is that as these software updates are 64-bit, so the software had to be rewritten and some features did not make it into the first versions. This makes sense for iWork as the only way a user is informed of the update is if they have updated to Mavericks on their Mac or iOS 7 on their iPhone or iPad. Also the iOS and Mac versions now have feature parity.

But the iBooks Author 2.1 update showed up on both my Macs, one of which is running Mavericks, the other still on Mountain Lion. (iBA is Mac only, there is no iOS version.) In the case of iBA, it just looks like a poor job of testing the new software was done. eBook previews that would be seen on the Mac would look fine as the fonts would be installed there, but if a preview was done on the iPad the user would see where custom fonts defaulted back to Arial. To replicate this on the Mac one would have to export the iBA file, turn off the custom font on their Mac, then open the eBook to see the custom font revert to a default font.

Today dawns without an update for iBA (none is really expected for the iWork programs). Hopefully today is the day one appears as there are publishers who have literally shutdown their production work. I have one eBook that was to be published this week that will not be submitted because of this issue. Do I rebuild it using iBA 2.0 or rethink the whole idea of creating interactive eBooks using the platform? That thought never entered my mind a month ago, now it keeps me up at night.

The sad part is that a publisher’s options are quite limited as neither Google nor Amazon have launched their own interactive eBook equivalent to iBA. Until that happens, or until a professional software solution arrives that can create eBooks as easily as one can with iBA, small to medium sized publishers are stuck. Unhappy, angry, disappointed, but stuck. Better add frustrated, too.