Guest Column: Steve Jobs Is iBooks Author
Apple should not let 2016 go by without doubling down on its ebook creation software, one of Jobs’ final legacies, writes Bradley Metrock, CEO of Score Publishing, producer of the iBooks Author Conference in Nashville
To wrap the year 2015 up, 60 Minutes’ Charlie Rose spent some time talking to Apple’s executive team, including CEO Tim Cook, for a wide-ranging feature. As part of this segment, Rose asked Cook about Steve Jobs, and Cook asserted that Steve Jobs’ aggressive pursuit of innovative excellence still lives on within Apple today.
Sorry, Tim: we’re going to disagree with you, at least with regards to iBooks Author, which was one of Steve’s final signature projects. As great of a company as Apple is, there’s an ocean of still-untapped opportunity with iBooks Author that Steve Jobs never would’ve tolerated.
iBooks Author is Apple’s ebook creation software, which effortlessly produces richly interactive, multimedia driven “multi-touch format” books. Back in 2011, Steve Jobs deeply understood the potential of iBooks Author, and was such a zealot that he single-handedly forced the shutdown of a would-be iBooks Author competitor.
iBooks Author got off to a rocky start, but has enjoyed a sequence of significant updates over the last year, and now iBooks Author is used to create interactive, multimedia-driven “next-generation” digital content all over the world. And, unlike Adobe DPS, Inkling, or some other would-be competitors…it’s free.
As revitalized as iBooks Author now is, being better than all the competition used to not be enough for Apple. When Steve Jobs was around, Apple competed only against Apple. “Very good” wasn’t even close to good enough.
It’s not too late to fully realize iBooks Author’s potential, as the software that defines digital content creation for the next decade. Here are five specific opportunities that Apple can, and should, pursue if they want to fully realize Steve Jobs’ vision for iBooks Author and turn it into a revolutionary strategic centerpiece:
- Deliver a universal iBooks app that works on all hardware. Apple did this with iTunes 15 years ago, with a PC version of iTunes alongside the Mac version, and sales of iPods exploded. Apple did this earlier this year with Apple Music, using a cross-platform approach (which includes Android) that gives the service its best chance to succeed. Now, Apple needs to do this with the iBooks app, thus providing a consistent high-end user experience for multi-touch format books created by iBooks Author.
- Deliver the ability for iBooks Author to export books as apps. As first suggested by the creators of the award-winning Mozart Project interactive book at the iBooks Author Conference, this functionality would recognize the blurred line between these interactive books and mobile applications. iBooks Author being able to export content as a mobile application, published similarly through iTunes Connect into the App Store rather than the iBooks Store, would be transformative and provide content creators with unprecedented flexibility in how to monetize their creations.
- Deliver functionality allowing “backward-compatible” EPUB conversion of existing multi-touch format books. As of version 2.3 (released in June 2015), iBooks Author can produce EPUB files via special EPUB templates added to the software. However, .iBooks files already created have to be deconstructed and re-created in these EPUB templates in order to be cross-platform. An iBooks Author that effortlessly handles the conversion of existing multi-touch format books into the ubiquitous EPUB format is an iBooks Author that will achieve critical mass, and paradoxically drive more people to purchase Apple hardware.
- Deliver a more customizable iBooks Store experience. Bearing in mind the iBooks Store can be thought of as a feature of iBooks Author, anybody using iBooks Author ought to be able to create a personal iBooks Store page, managed through iTunes Connect, that can be used to showcase author-specific content on the iBooks Store. If Apple makes it possible for content creators to set up shop on the iBooks Store, and feel at home there, many will.
- Deliver a more navigable iBooks Store experience. Apple could do content creators a favor by allowing iBooks Store users to search within genre or topic specifically for multi-touch format books. We also need a specific section of the iBooks Store for multi-touch format books created in iBooks Author – something that used to be highlighted on the store’s front page but then vanished. Apple should also better explain what a multi-touch format book is, from within the iBooks Store. These books are special, with unique interactivity and multimedia, and people would download more of them if Apple did a few more simple things to call attention to them within the place of purchase.
May 2016 be the year that Apple fully realizes iBooks Author’s potential. There’s no better way to honor Jobs’ legacy than that.
Bradley Metrock is CEO of Score Publishing, a digital media company based in Nashville, Tennessee, and executive producer of the iBooks Author Conference. The iBooks Author Best Practices Series, the three-volume iBook set containing 2.5 hours of video from the 2015 iBooks Author Conference, is available on the iBooks Store.