October 17, 2014 Last Updated 12:22 pm

Apple updates iBooks Author, adds in support for importing ePub and InDesign files

Update also allows designers to set their media to auto-play, and for readers to play HTML widgets right on the page rather than in a new window

The eBook publishing platform from Apple, iBooks Author, received an update last night. The update, which brings the program up to version 2.2, fails to introduce iPhone support, the one thing publishers have been asking for from the beginning. But there are a number of interesting new features.

The update for iBA now allows designers to import ePub files. It also allows for the importation of Adobe InDesign IDML files, which may prove a big help for seasoned designers expert at Adobe’s publishing design program. (The download is 412 MB.)

templates-iba

Apple also had added blank templates, probably an unnecessary step for many, but a bit of a convenience for designers comfortable starting from scratch.

Maybe the biggest improvement, and one often requested from publishers, is the addition of an auto-pplay function for media such as video, Keynote presentations and other HTML widgets. Readers will probably start to see pages come to live at open almost immediately – and, hopefully, designers won’t over use this feature to drive readers crazy with videos that play at open and really shouldn’t.

Finally, the update now allows readers to interact with some HTML widgets right on the page rather than bringing up a new window that must then be closed at the end.

(I should also add that there is no hyperlink options that could be used quite interestingly. Designers can now link to a location in another book, or link from an image – something that has been often requested.)

All-in-all, this is a really good, if minor, update to iBooks Author. These are the kinds of incremental improvements one hopes to see in a new program – and ones that add new functionality and utility to the digital publishing solution.

The two big improvements eBook publishers would love to see are support for the iPhone, especially now that the iPhone displays are getting bigger, and cross-platform support. One understand why Apple is hesitant to support other platforms, but why it fails to support the iPhone is a mystery. It seems that one, simple solution, might be to simply add iPhone templates. This would mean publishers would have to design for the smaller screen from scratch, rather than simply convert their designs, but there is no doubt many would be eager to do so.

Update: the latest version of iBA lists among its requirements that the user must be have OS X 10.9 (Mavericks) or higher. That will effect more people than you might expect. Many of those on older Macs, like the Mac mini, never upgraded to Mavericks because the software does not perform well on older Macs. Because of this, some of you may not see the update at all – this may be why.

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  • Michael W. Perry 3 years ago

    IBA’s lack of support for iPhones is somewhat understandable if your realize that IBAs original purpose was to help high school and college teachers create textbooks for courses. That explains the simple user UI and textbook-look tilt.

    That said, I’m glad to see Apple broadening the app out a bit, particularly by adding new import capabilities.

    I tested the InDesign import with my latest book. It came in with a few glitches, but I was amazed that it worked at all. The key hangup that the InDesign import is like that for Word and Pages. It assumes books broken up into chapter-length documents. Some Word authors may write that way, but InDesign handles long books, so well, I’ve used it for a complex 550+ page book without a glitch. Apple needs to give IBA the ability to break imported books into chapters based on a paragraph style.

    I also hope Apple is working to cross the great book selling divide that now exists between reflowable epub ebooks (for iPhones but suitable for iPads) with iPad only fixed-layout epub. Since the content is the same, customers need to be able to buy both on the same page for one price and download either or both, depending on what device they use as a reader.

    It’d also be great if Apple executives realized that in the ebook market Amazon is their only real competitor. Apple benefits from Nooks and Kobo, not only because there are iDevice readers for both, but because these other-than-Amazon companies help keep the ebook market from being controlled by Amazon.

    • jrhmobile 3 years ago

      Wow. You’re creating 550-plus page InDesign files?

      I strongly recommend that you break those book-size files down into smaller, chapter-sized chunks and then stitch them together using InDesign’s book function. Not only will you find that the processing performance of your InDesign documents will improve dramatically, you save yourself from disaster on the off-chance that your entire book is lost if the file somehow gets corrupted.

      I work with InDesign every day, and I trust its abilities explicitly. But I’d never tempt fate by placing an entire 500-page book into a single InDesign file.

  • Lynne Foster 3 years ago

    How would this update work for those of us who use InDesign but have no iDevices? Perhaps not at all?

    • D.B. Hebbard 3 years ago

      Assuming you own a Mac, this update doesn’t change anything – you do your work on your Mac, then preview your work on either your Mac or your iPad (no iPad, no problem, just preview on your Mac).

      Of course, if you don’t own a Mac it is all irrelevant, you can’t use iBooks Author.

  • Deborah Ledford 3 years ago

    Does anyone here know the difficulty level of preparing the files from a PC–Word doc or pdf for example?