Guide: Creating great content with iBooks Author

Traditional textbooks generally contain great content, but they are fraught with problems. They are often very expensive, easily damaged and can only be updated by purchasing any new editions. In addition, for the vast majority of people, publishing a printed book of our own is out of reach, making it difficult to produce your own content. Nowadays, students have grown accustomed to using technology to interact with their world, so why not take advantage of this and produce books that can be tailored to the way they learn? That’s where iBooks Author comes in.

iBooks Author is an amazing free app that enables you to create stunning iBooks for both iOS and OS X devices. Books created with this tool provide students with a digital textbook which is aesthetically pleasing and packed full of interactive elements like diagrams, photo, video, 3D models, review questions and so much more. iBooks Author enables you to bring your own content to life and in a way that would be impossible with traditional, printed books.

Getting started
Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 09.41.07

You might want to begin with a blank page and create your own bespoke template (see here). Alternatively, you may choose to start with using one of the stunning, professional looking preinstalled templates. There are a range of options available which can be adapted to suit almost any purpose and are available in both landscape and portrait orientations. Additional templates, either free or paid, are also available for download from third party online vendors.

Adding content
Once you have chosen a template that is fit for purpose, you’ll need to start compiling the content that will feature in your book. This is probably the most time consuming element when creating a new book: once all the content is gathered, the process is very simple. iBooks Author achieves this by using drag and drop to great effect. For example, have a Pages document containing text you wish to use in your book? Simply drag and drop it onto the page and the text will appear. Want to add an image to make your book look more appealing? Again, just drag and drop these on to your page. The text wrap feature will also ensure your text automatically flows perfectly around your images, making the end product look even more professional.

Adding interactive elements
The inclusion of Widgets are what really sets an iBook apart from its counterpart. These allow the reader to explore and interact with your books content in a way that suits them. Currently, iBooks Author includes the following interactive Widgets:

– Gallery – a collection of images, each with an optional caption which readers can browse through as they wish.


– Media – an embedded movie or audio file which readers can play either within the book or in full screen mode.


– Review – a series of interactive questions. Options include text or image based multiple choice or drag to target questions.


– Keynote – an embedded Keynote presentation which readers can play either within the book or in full screen mode.


– Interactive Image – an image featuring labels, where readers can navigate around the image and view additional information about certain parts.


– 3D – a 3D (.dae file) model which can be manipulated by the reader.

– Scrolling Sidebar – additional Content (text or images) which relates to the main text. This enables readers to scroll through this additional content separately from the rest of the text.

– Pop-Over – additional content (text or images) that is hidden and opens when the reader taps an image or button.


– HTML – an HTML5 widget (.wdgt file). For more on creating iBook Widgets, check out BookWidgets and Bookry.

All screenshots taken from E.O Wilson’s Life on Earth Unit 1 by Edward O. Wilson, Morgan Ryan & Gaël McGill, available for free on the iBooks Store

Publishing your content
When you’re creating your book, it is likely that you are going to want to get a feel for what the end product will be like. iBooks Author facilitates this through the Preview function visible in the toolbar. This creates a preview of your entire book which can be opened on either a Mac or an iPad (requires iPad to be connected to a Mac using the USB cable). Once you are ready to publish, iBooks Author provides a step-by-step walkthrough to guide you through the process of submit your book to the iBooks Store. It also supports the publication of new versions of your book containing any subsequent revisions or updates.

However, for many, particularly educators, it is possible that you have created a book aimed specifically at your students and thus do not want to publish it to the iBooks Store for distribution. Fortunately, iBooks Author now allows you export your book in iBooks format. This can then be shared either by email, by syncing to a device through iTunes or by sharing through iTunes U. Additionally, you can also export your iBook as a PDF, however if you opt to do this, links will work but other interactive media (e.g. interactive Widgets) will not.

Top tips
Here are my 5 top tips for creating a great iBook:

1.) Start with a great template – this could either be one of the preinstalled template, or one you have created yourself. Nevertheless, a great template is needed to give your book a professional look.

2.) Gather all your resources beforehand – having everything to hand, like text, images and video, will make creating your iBook much more straightforward, allowing you to concentrate on refining your design.

3.) Keep your design structured – a consistent structure will help your reader navigate through your book with ease. For example, include icons to indicate to the user how you would like to interact with your book and use the consistently throughout.

4.) Include content that is interactive – this is the most significant benefit an iBook has over the printed page, so take advantage of it! Include lots of interactive elements where appropriate (ensure you maintain a pedagogical rationale) and don’t be afraid to mix it up. Plus, since you are not bound by printing costs feel free to add as many pages as necessary and give your content the space it really needs. Finally, check the licensing of any third party content included in your book and include attribution where necessary. Check out Creative Commons Search for content that can be used without infringing copyright.

5.) Show off your book – designing a great cover may initially seem low on your list of priorities. However if you plan on distributing your book through the iBooks Store, this will often be the first thing people see. Your cover reflects what you, your book and possibly your institution (if you are publishing on their behalf) are about.

cover225x225 For a comprehensive introduction to creating your first iBook, check out iBooks Author Starter Kit by Apple, available for free from the iBooks Store.

mzl.cyfzvwwuiBooks Author by Apple is available for free on the Mac App Store.

*all prices and links correct at the time of publication and are subject to change


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