April 28, 2016 Last Updated 11:09 am

Axel Zaren, aka Fizzmatic, uses iBooks Author to build promotional eBook for album

The limitations of iBooks Author prevents the playing of audio files throughout the reading experience, limiting the playing of music to the page the reader is currently on

The last couple of months have gotten a bit busy around here due to some personal things, as well as a new experimental website which I will write more about on Monday.

For those projects that I promised to write about… well, I apologize. For instance, I have a great interview with Ted Levine, the CEO at Kids Discover on the exciting things they are doing there. I hope to get to that next week, as well.

Fizz-screenAnother example would be Axel Zaren, aka Fizzmatic.

Zaren contacted me in February about an iBooks project he created for an album he had released, called Chaos Is The New Order. The eBook was created using iBooks Author.

“In this multi-touch book , the soundscapes unfold over 10 parts, telling the story of a world in metamorphosis, in shades of melancholia, hope, darkness and light,” Fizzmatic writes in the introduction.

“Each track takes the listener on a journey filled with rich harmonies and beautiful haunting melodies, while the images trigger visions of a world both strange and familiar.”

Now, though, is probably a really bad time to write about this new eBook as it appears that Zaren – that is, Fizzmatic – is changing distributors, so neither the album nor eBook are currently to be found in iTunes or the iBooks Store. Maybe I waited too long – if so, well, I apologize yet again.

The reason Zaren reached out is that he read an article here on TNM where I talked about my own efforts to create a music-related eBook using iBooks Author. One problem was that, at least initially, Apple was handicapping the music quality that could be used inside an iBA eBook. Luckily, that one has been solved and one can now use files that are actually better than what can be downloaded in iTunes (rumor has it that one day Apple will up the bit rate of the AAC files Apple sells, but I’m not holding my breath).

The other problem, that still exists, is that of auto-play. One can now auto-play files in iBA, but once you leave the page you are on the file stops. This makes sense for video, but may not make sense for audio.

“Obviously I hit the same walls that you noted in your articles, like not being able to have the audio play constantly throughout the various pages,” Zaren wrote.

“I released the whole thing for free on the Apple’s iBook Store, with included links to the album on iTunes store,” Zaren said. “The idea at the time was that I would release it for free as promotional material, and hopefully people who downloaded it out of curiosity and liked the music would head to iTunes and purchase the album, and the ebook would be the equivalent of liner notes of a CD.”

Zaren found, as many others before him, that discovery is the big issue inside the iBooks Store (or the App Store, or iTunes, for that matter).

“I contacted several media outlets – both music related, and Mac news related – about it. Unfortunately it was just met with complete and utter indifference, except for the Hypebot website (which covers digital and tech related music news ) who mentioned it,” said Zaren.

It doesn’t help, either, that websites like this take their sweet time writing on such matters. Did I already apologize? If not…

In any case, you can monitor the musician’s website for any updates he posts on when and where his music can be found.

Like others who cover iBA, I remain mystified with the lack of progress Apple has made on the software. I don’t believe it is through incompetence that so few updates are released, just that Apple puts such a low priority on the software. If the team of programmers were freed to just go-for-it my bet is that they could do wonders with it. (Maybe we need to start a #freeibooksauthor hashtag.)

The most important improvement – at least as I am thinking right now – would be to create a panel that would turn on and off certain features. For instance, when creating a new project you could universally turn on and off auto-play and continuous play. So, if you created a new eBook and turned on continuous play you could insert an audio file that played continuously while reading, to be used for audiobooks or music books.

Those who have used iBA have tons of suggestions. Maybe the best one might be for Apple to make iBA open source and be done with it. But it is so much like other pieces of Apple software that I could never imagine them doing this.

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