The release of Apple’s iBooks author in January triggered a new initiative from the frog ladies. We rushed out and bought an iPad (great excuse ) and conceived the LifeScience iPrimer series.
Our Digital Field Trips encompass a wealth of information and are available on Mac and Windows machines. We are planning to break them into modules and convert them to HTML5 so they will run on all platforms, but this is a daunting process and requires more technical skills than the frog ladies possess. So we decided to try our hand at publishing using this state-of-the-art publishing tool. For those of you who have not come across this tool, Apple provides the tool free, but the publisher can only sell it through iTunes.
iBooks Author allows even frog ladies to assemble professional-looking multi-touch iBooks. Of course, due to the limitations of iBooks Author and our limited programming skills, they are not interactive in the way that our other programs are, but they do include the videos, animations and great photographs (plus some new ones) that appeal to nature lovers of all ages.
It is a powerful tool, and you can incorporate interactive widgets, but as far as we can figure, the widgets have to be created outside of the program. Personally, I did not find it intuitive as I am used to using InDesign, a page layout program that does not second guess intentions in the way that iBooks author does. I know that others do find the interface more intuitive.
The process of publishing this in iTunes was very frustrating. We initially included links to product pages and to a survey with the chance to win a full copy of the interactive program. Apple vetoed this as it smacks of advertising. Then they rejected it because it does not display in portrait mode – even though they provide the option of locking it in landscape mode. (We did overcome that objection). There were a few other valid changes, but they were fed to us one at a time, rather than all at once – a time-consuming and frustrating process.
Nevertheless, our first iBook, Rainforest Interdependencies, is now available in iTunes and has received mixed reviews. The first review in iTunes by Fourisfun is quite positive: “The information and graphics are excellent… would now love to see more interactive components.” (So would we, but we’d have to learn to program – and we are really busy as it is
We found another review by Dr CJ which is much more damning – or is it?
“Poorly Designed, thumbs down to d-frog
Unlike their awesome software this product is a poor reflection on an excellent company. It reminds me of the early 90′s software craze when the market was flooded with instructional materials that harmed rather then helped. As a professor of instructional design I purchased it in hopes of showing my class an outstanding example, instead I bought a fine example of how not to design a science book. Please go back to the design board and rethink this book or else stay in the software market where your products shine.”
Strangely, we take this as a compliment – even though it is damning – it praises our core products.
So, will we publish more? The next title on Plants will be published soon; after that, we will wait and see how sales go. Of course, at $2.99 we need to sell a lot of books to even break even.