March 3, 2015 Last Updated 9:39 am

‘Your Media’: new iBA-built interactive textbook from Danish publisher Lighthouse Publish

Finding new eBooks in Apple’s iBooks Store remains a herculean task as the search mechanism makes browsing for and finding new books nearly impossible

Last year TNM attempted to create two recurring features: Books on Monday and the Wednesday Guest Column. The column idea was easier to maintain – though, in the end, getting good columns did prove to be difficult as far too many contributors were really looking to place a press release.

Books on Monday never took off. Part of the reason for this, of course, is that most books still appear in print first, and I was mostly interested in eBooks (though books on the media would have worked, too). In the entire time I was open to publishers pushing their new books to me only two managed to send me either a print book or eBook of interest – and by the time I received the second one I had tired of trying to make the feature work.

newebook

One might think it would be easy to just go into the iBooks Store and find something new myself. But Apple really, really makes finding new material hard. The App Store and iBooks Store team are adamant that you will read what they recommend… or nothing else. In one section of the iBooks Store, and I am not kidding about this, the “New” section lists the latest book as being published in 1897.

Yes, Apple still struggles with databases.

One might argue that Apple knows what it is doing: after all, it is the world’s largest company. But it is the world’s largest company because it entered a field with an amazing product that has a two-year cycle. Buyers are conditioned to buy an iPhone and upgrade it every two years.

The problems start for Apple after the consumer has loaded their devices with apps and media – will they continue to do so months after the purchase. Apple doesn’t make it easy on current customers looking for the latest anything. Unless Apple decides to promote it, there is usually no way way to find something new without first already knowing its correct name.

The best example of this is the one TNM has been harping on for more than a year: the Newsstand. Top into the Newsstand on your Mac, iPad or iPhone, what you will first see is the typical front page. But go into any category and immediately you see the store fall apart – the top promotional area is vacant, the “New” section is broken.

The iBooks Store is no different – though I would not call it broken in the same way the Newsstand is, it is simply poorly designed and maintained.

In any category once again Apple does not really mean “new” when it says “New” – it means featured, a small selection of books it has chosen. It would be like going into a Barnes & Noble and finding the front table stacked with “New” books including Penguin Classics.

I noted a while ago that Apple eliminated its own “Made for iBooks” category, a sign that someone involved with the iBooks Store things Apple should give up on iBooks Author as a serious software solution for publishers (even though those that use the solution are pretty enthusiastic about it). If I were part of the iBA software team I’d be sending out resumes.


If browsing the store has been made impossible, one is at the mercy of the store team to recommend something for you. Here, again, Apple has failed to consider buying habits. There is no place to create a profile that would tell Apple what I like and don’t like. This would seem a nature thing to do, and would give Apple a huge reservoir of customer information, in addition to information that can be obtained through past purchases.

One title that I happily stumbled upon was precisely the kind of eBook I would have loved to have written about for Books on Monday, but can do so know.

Your Media is an inactive eBook, built using iBooks Author (don’t bother searching for the book by typing in “Your Media” because even though it is the only book in the iBooks Store with that exact name, it doesn’t show up in the results). (See comment below, it appears that this issue has been resolved and the book now shows up first in a search for it.)

Written by Jytte Isaksen, and published by the Danish publisher Lighthouse Publish, the eBook is a written to be used as part of the classroom.

“We are surrounded by and use media every day of our lives,” the description states. “One minute we’re on the internet, the next we’re listening to music on an MP3 player or watching a film. We use several types of media at the same time – sometimes for fun, at other times to stay updated with the news, on Facebook, Twitter, via email and text messages. But what exactly characterizes the media that surrounds us, what are they able to do and how do we use them? This book aims to give the reader an insight into the complexity we see in our media today.”

The eBook features plenty of interactive features including video, but comes in at a fairly modest 151 MB in size.

Although Your Media is meant for education, it is precisely the kind of book it would be nice to not have to struggle to find. In this case, Apple made it easy by featuring it in the Textbooks area, but I spend over an hour trying to find something to download and only ended up with a eBooks Apple made easy to find.

As a book buyer all I wanted was to be able to browse, to see what was new. Is it really so hard to include a “New” feature to every category where I can sort the books by release date and have it include all books published, not just those Apple wants you to know about?

Here are a few digital pages from the front of Your Media:

[tribulant_slideshow gallery_id=”59″]

  • Marcus Parsons 3 years ago

    Count me among the authors who love iBA. I _think_ (i.e., readers must judge) that I’ve done a reasonably interesting job fashioning a literary novel (of all things!) out of it. (See PRELUDE, at the Squeezeshot.org website.) Also count me among the authors of iBooks Store books whose works works are not easy to discover; though, to be fair, I’m just getting started. In any event, given the appeal of diverse media these days i.e., (high-res photos and video, strong graphics, music, immersive audio, etc.) as well as good old text, works created using iBA or something like it are bound to become more widespread — a pleasure for many readers/viewers.

  • Edward Smith 3 years ago

    Actually, ‘Your Media’ does show up in a search under its name. I also searched my own book, both by name, and also I clicked on the category (poetry) and it appeared. Perhaps they fixed the problem after your blog post?

    • D.B. Hebbard 3 years ago

      After seeing your comment I did the search again and you are right, it shows up right at the top. It is possible that the fact that it didn’t appear at first was the fault of the publisher not Apple. I’ll add a note to the story, thanks!

  • Michael W. Perry 3 years ago

    I can give an excellent example of how Apple is failing those who publish through the iBookstore.

    One of my books, Hospital Gowns and Other Embarrassments, is the only book in print that’s a guide to dealing with embarrassment issues in hospitals. Now, search Google for “book on hospital embarrassment.” The first hit out of almost 23 million is to the page where my book is being sold at Amazon and the third is to where my book is being sold at Barnes and Noble. The ninth, still on that all-important first page, is to the book at Smashwords. Those are not paid listings. All three retailers must be doing something to give my book that high a ranking.

    Is there a hit for the iBookstore? Yes, but it comes near the bottom of the second page. That means that only a few of those who look for a book on that topic will even discover that they can get it from the iBookstore.

    Keep in mind that I say that as a fan of iBookstore. I appreciate the greater control they give authors and the 70% royalties they pay at all retail prices not just the $2.99-9.99 range over which Amazon pays 70%. I like the iBookstore. I’m just frustrated by how poorly it markets books.

    Apple and the iBookstore come up seriously lacking when it comes to book visibility. They’re not doing whatever it takes to place their books high up in Google’s search results. Nor do they offer much help to those who want to use their browser to locate an ebook from them. Here are the results I got when I tried to do that:

    Kindlebooks.com sends me to the Kindle store at Amazon.com. Nookbooks.com does the same for B&N. But ibookstore.com goes to someone else’s online bookstore. Apple hasn’t even tried to buy up the most obvious book domain.

    Searching Google for “ibookstore” is disappointing. The first hit promotes the iBooks app, which makes little sense. It’s not even sold. It comes free with every recent iOS device.

    The second hit is for the iBooks app in the iTunes app section. Again, that’s pointless. The app ships with every iOS 8 installation. Why promote what people already have?

    The third hit does seem to get to iBookstore, but what a potential customer gets is a pain in the neck. They aren’t allowed to search for a book by title or author. Instead they must drill down through dozens of categories and subcategories of books, as every potential reader merely wanted to browse leisurely, with no particular book or author in mind.

    The fourth hit is to the iBookstore category on Twitter. No help there.

    And to make clear just how bad the situation is, the rest of the entries on that first Google page aren’t even to Apple at all. They are to other sites telling people things like “How to Buy eBooks at the iPad iBookstore.” Yes there is a need for help on that topic. Apple certainly hasn’t made it easy for the average person to find ebooks at their own store.

    And yes, if you’re an author, it’s quite easy to find a link that’ll go directly in a browser to a particular ebooks page. You can find one of my books here:

    https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/lilys-ride/id879515985

    But I had to use the iBooks to extract that direct link. Is there an Apple page that would let me locate that page in a browser? Probably, but I haven’t found out where it is. Apple makes it that hard for potential customers to look for books by title or author in its iBookstore. Personally, I can’t make sense of that.

    –Michael W. Perry