In total I’ve spent about 3 hours in iBook Author, so am by no means an expert. However, in that time I have learned a few key lessons that I think will help other users make the transition from different eBook software providers.

 Step 1: Before Getting Started

Purchasing and Installing Mac OSX Lion

  • If you create an eBook in iBook Author you will only be able to publish and sell in Apple’s iBook store. Say goodbye to publishing on a direct website, Barnes and Noble, Amazon or producing a hardcopy you can give to your grandparents…it won’t happen.
  • Download iBook Author from the Mac App Store. Note that in order for you to have the Mac App and download iBook Author you need Mac OSX Lion. If you are running Snow Leopard you will need to buy OSX Lion first from the Mac App store and then proceed.

 Those are two big lessons I learned before I even got started, now onto writing the book.

Step 2: Choosing a Format in Apple’s iBook Author

This is actually a much more important step than I most people believe give credit to. In my experience you don’t have a lot of flexibility with editing title pages or table of contents once you’ve began writing the book.

iBook Author Templates

This will control a lot of things moving forward, from having images in the table of contents, how a book will look flipping from portrait to landscape, the colour of the pages etc.

My recommendation – test each of the templates before getting too deep into writing.

Step 3: Determine what is “Needed” detail, and what is “Necessary” Detail

Another thing you must realize is that the amount of information shown to the reader on the screen is changed when switching from portrait (longest end upwards), to landscape (longest end sideways).

  • Tables and Text Boxes – Will not show in portrait mode, they disappear to make it more of a summary view. Portrait view is great for textbooks because it takes a lot of the supplemental detail out and makes it easier to focus on the important material. That’s the key though, make sure what is in tables and text boxes is not key material, and if it is – make sure to also put it in the body text.
  • Widgets – Widgets on the other hand, are kept in portrait mode and are made into thumbnails that are beautifully formatted within the text. In my opinion, this is the best way to experience these interactive widgets. I find that when in landscape mode, readers do not necessarily need to expand the widget to full screen, they may work with the graphic in the imbedded size. However, when in portrait mode, the widget automatically expands to full screen when selected and allows the reader to get a much larger and clearer view of the image.

Step 4: Preview on your iPad! Practice makes Perfect

Last but not least, while making this changes on your Mac, if you have an iPad handy it makes the process much easier because you can quickly preview your work on the iPad and it allows you to see how the reader will interact with your work. To do this, simply plug in your iPad, open iBooks on the iPad and click Preview at the top toolbar on your Mac. This will prompt your book to open on your iPad and you can begin to scroll through your work in progress. Again, this is a great way to pause during writing and test some of the principles above.

To Summarize…

In order to begin the process of creating your first eBook, you must first have a Mac with OSX Lion and with iBooks Author installed. From there, I recommend spending a bit of time choosing your ideal template, organizing your work to suite that template and leveraging the iPad to test your progress along the way.

Best of luck