June 9, 2014 Last Updated 9:48 am

Books on Monday (part 2): more on The Mozart Project


So many iBA created books are published on the fly, but self-publishers, or small publishers, looking to quickly publish an eBook. Only a handful of publishers, such as the aforementioned Octopus Books, have really used iBA within the traditional, slow publishing cycle to produce an impressive product. The Mozart Project certainly does that.

Here we have on each page music or interviews, galleries or pop-up text. Yet the book is not some sort of app developers showcase. A reader could just as easily read The Mozart Project straight through without tapping on any of the features carefully placed inside the app.

TMP-iPad-tocBut the book also takes full advantage of iBA’s ability to display multimedia material. The book opens with a promotional video for the book. This is the same video the publishers are using on YouTube, and it is a bit unusual to feature such a longish video at the front of an eBook. In fact, Apple’s original instructions were to limit the opening video content to ten to 15 seconds. This probably was not a hard and set rule, though by now it is being completely ignored. (I think Apple didn’t want iBA to be simply another way to show video.)

Then the book opens to the first chapter which is, in fact, yet another video – this one used to give the reader instructions on how to navigate the book and use its features. Then comes a table of contents.

Now a TOC may seem like a natural thing, but one must remember that many iBA books do not actually feature one because there is a content mechanism already built into the software. But the publishers have decided to build in a TOC and there is certainly nothing wrong with doing so. In fact, only in this way can the readers really get an idea of the flow of the book.

(The book weighs in at over a 1GB, but this is not caused by the video inside the book, which is inserted via an HTML5 widget, but by the introductory video plus the embedded audio. Without an Internet connection, the reader can not access the video inside the chapters, but they can hear the audio tracks.)

Then each chapter is designed in a similar fashion, with a full page lead in page featuring an illustration. The first chapter is actually the preface – notes from the editor that explains the origins and mission of the book.

“This book represents ‘redress’ of another sort: not only for the supposed ‘facts’ of Mozart’s life, many of which (including his alleged poverty) are simply not true, but also for the ways we can understand music,” write Cliff Eisen, who is editor of the project.

The first real chapter is called The Grand Tour, which you can see in the gallery below. It is a good example of how the chapters are designed. This opens with audio, a popover picture and a video. In other words, plenty of multimedia effects.

The second page of the chapter features the first footnote. Now iBA does not have a built-in footnote mechanism, but the producers decided to use the pop-over feature to create the footnote and – to be honest – this is such an obvious solution that I’m surprised that Apple hasn’t made it clear that this is the way to do footnotes. I feel like an absolute fool for not using this in Talking Digital myself.

The multimedia almost overwhelms the reader early on. But as the book goes on there is a better balance of text and multimedia elements. But the goal with the first chapter is certainly to give plenty of background information necessary for proceeding to the next chapters.

Each chapter then ends with a panel discussion, suggestions for further reading and the ability to email the author questions.

Now it turns out that I am a lover of Mozart, coming to Mozart in a roundabout way from listening to avant garde music, then medieval and renaissance music. One needs to bridge that rather large divide, and that is where approaching Bach, Mozart and Beethoven comes in handy. So I might be predisposed to enjoy this book immensely. But as a publisher I can appreciate the work done here, as well. No doubt the publishers did not want to create a mere trifle when creating an eBook on Mozart – the goal was more Don Giovanni than La finta semplice.

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