February 16, 2016 Last Updated 11:28 am

First look: Indie band Airplane Mode’s ‘Amsterdam’ new iBook highlights further opportunities to tweak iBooks Author

Originally posted on the iBooks Author Conference website, Bradley Metrock looks at a new music eBook and lists some improvements he would like to see in the Apple platform

In the article 17 Ways To Use iBooks Author Right Now, I mentioned taking existing musical works (#9) and expanding upon them, with additional multimedia and interactivity, to create something new.

New York indie band Airplane Mode is the latest to push the boundaries of the modern album experience with their EP, “Amsterdam.”  The EP, which was released yesterday (Valentine’s Day!), is slickly-produced yet artful pop and I, for one, really enjoyed it musically.

Airplane Mode Amsterdam iBooks StoreBut Airplane Mode didn’t stop there.  They released an iBook of the “Amsterdam” EP – essentially, an enhanced edition of the EP which includes not only additional narrative behind the story the music’s telling, but also additional bonus features regarding the construction of the music, such as an hour-long podcast recorded with the EP’s producer, a barrage of images of the band’s recording sessions for fans, and a behind-the-scenes video.

The band did an excellent job with this iBook.  It succeeds brilliantly in using the format to create atmosphere and to draw you in.  It also provides more than enough value, across the entire package, to more than justify the $3.99 price tag (which is approximately the cost of the EP itself on iTunes).

As we enjoyed this superb artistic work made with Apple’s iBooks Author, we naturally observed several areas Apple could improve to make the software even better.  (This isn’t the first time I’ve made suggestions, but give Apple credit for vastly improving the software since 2014 and keeping it a best-in-class content creation tool, making cool projects like this possible.)

1) Apple, you guys absolutely have to enable audio files to be able to be played across pages and perhaps even chapters.  Airplane Mode’s iBook is divided with each song as a chapter, yet you can only listen to that song (as well as the included demo version, a nice touch) on the final page of the chapter.

The need for iBooks Author content creators to be able to have audio play across multiple pages is well documented.  For more musicians to use iBooks Author to continue to express themselves, this needs to change and audio usage within iBooks Author needs to be made much more flexible and functional.

Airplane Mode Amsterdam eBook2) The option needs to exist for iBooks Author content creators to be able to let their readers download media out of the iBook in appropriate audio or video formats.  Let me explain…

First, I bought this band’s iBook from the iBooks Store.  Read it, heard it, captivated by it

Then, I realized: I want this music just to be able to listen to.

So, what did I have to do? Re-buy it on iTunes.

But what should I have been able to do? Click a button to download audio out of the iBook into iTunes at no additional charge.

Again, this is the type of thing that absolutely must be addressed for Apple to allow iBooks Author to continue to be the best-in-class tool artists seek out to bring bold new visions to life.

3) Amidst the increasing fusion of media, Apple needs to carefully consider how it allows artists to represents themselves within its digital retail walls.

Apple runs arguably the most successful physical retail channel on planet Earth.  However, the same certainly can’t be said for its digital stores, which need a significant overhaul.

 As that happens, creative endeavors like Airplane Mode’s “Amsterdam” EP need to be top of mind. We’ve seen again and again that artists will take advantage of available tools like iBooks Author to present a more unified, multimedia vision when given the opportunity.  But what will slam that door shut is if the vertically-integrated ecommerce solution – in this case, the iBooks Store – isn’t tuned to allow the proper presentation and marketing and availability and usage of the end product.

Airplane Mode Amsterdam eBook screenThe right answer is probably a just-as-unified digital retail approach, in which the App Store, iTunes, and iBooks Store are all merged into one superstore.  And then, to allow individual content creators to have a single page, which they themselves can modify as they see fit, to represent themselves.

But whatever direction Apple takes it as it seeks to improve, it needs to be flexible enough to handle the innovative, genre-challenging content its users are creating now.

4) ADDED AFTER ORIGINAL PUBLICATION (thanks to DB Hebbard of Talking New Media, sponsor of the 2016 iBooks Author Conference)

The maximum audio sampling bitrate iBooks Author currently allows is 320Kbps, which is considered good enough for headphones but generally unacceptable for audiophiles and other purists.  Providing additional audio fidelity should be an option for artists who want to include higher-quality audio in their iBooks, but also perhaps providing some basic audio mixing tools (such as a basic audio mixer) could easily be included in iBooks Author to give artists additional audio control.  Sure, you’re not going to edit your audio in iBooks Author, but some additional thought could be used here now that we know musicians are continuing to use iBA to express themselves.

Airplane Mode, nice work.  Great music, and great use of iBooks Author.  Best of luck

iBooks Store link to Airplane Mode – “Amsterdam” EP iBook

iTunes link to Airplane Mode – “Amsterdam” EP

Bradley Metrock is CEO of Score Publishing, a digital media company based in Nashville, Tennessee, and executive producer of the iBooks Author Conference.

Part two: Let’s talk music eBooks, and where they could go if artists, and especially labels, were to support the form. ➔ ➔ ➔

Comments are closed.