iBooks Author can make a huge difference to the textbooks available for the iPad, and the way in which students understand and absorb material. Although Apple aimed the authoring suite at school textbooks, its potential use is so much wider to any kind of book that seeks to demonstrate.
The Future is Multimedia ebooks
While traditional ebook formats, the ePub, may be fine for traditional novels, it isn’t particularly effective for any kind of oeuvre that would benefit from images, maps, videos or multimedia. I recently read a book on the history of Burma / Myanmar and it would have been so much more enriching had the author been able to include photographs, maps locating the area he was talking about, immigration timelines and videos of recent events.
iBook author makes these capabilities available to more people, reducing barriers to publishing and enriching our available resources. Hopefully this will lead a change in the mindset of authors when they are conceiving their books.
Apple has received a lot of criticism of iBooks Author for its use of a closed standard that can only produce books for use on the iPad, and not other platforms such as Android or RIM tablets. This means that for publishers they need to produce a version of their interactive ebook for the iPad and for other platforms; twice the work.
John Siracusa in his podcast Hypercritical put forth the concept that it was a strategic mistake for Apple because they are not market leader in ebooks. Yet this premise is not necessarily correct, in the same way that Apple was not market leader in smartphones, as Nokia’s Symbian was leading the way, they are not the ebooks market leader. Today the undisputed leader is Amazon with their Kindle platform, and this lead is well deserved. However, that Kindle platform is based upon the traditional ePub format which limits the inclusion of multimedia.
In the realm of interactive books, there is no one supplier which is dominant today, so Apple is making a play to become that dominant supplier. They’ve teamed up with some of the big content suppliers so they can scale fast and try to win leadership in this market; and I think they have a good chance of doing so.
Once they are dominant, they will want to do what all business do, lock in their dominance by making sure the best selection of titles is on the iPad, in the same way they have driven success with iOS applications.
If you are a publisher today, and you want to publish an ebook, which platform will you publish on first! The iPad. It has the largest audience. Hence the extra cost of developing an ebook for a second platform will not be the cost of developing for the iPad, but the cost of developing for Android or Windows.
Apple is surely hoping that this will play out in the same way as its success in the app store business, always having the biggest selection of multimedia ebooks and being the most profitable platform for content developers.
This new realm of multimedia ebooks offers a lot of advantages to marketeers. If we really believe that we are on the cusp of a new market, then there exists today many opportunities to try and own part of that market.
The large publishers will take some time to start converting their books to multimedia ebooks. Indeed, they will have to have committees and make strategic decisions before that happens, so there is probably a window of about three months where smaller organizations and launch books and make a splash is a relatively uncrowded pond.
Quick moving, small companies can also offer free ebooks designed to publicize their capabilities. Again, they should move fast to seize the moment.
IBooks can be distributed through the iBookstore, bring in potential new clients, or they can be added to websites, sent through email campaigns to subscribers. It’s a great way of promoting your specialize.
Ebooks are clearly the future of reference publishing, and probably most non-novel publishing. Now is the time to embrace the mindset and seize the moment to establish yourselves in this new market.