Learn how to create ebooks for the iPad

Paul Strobeck walks you through the steps so that you can create an ebook for your Apple iPad.

It seems just like yesterday that we were trying to get our employees to embrace laptops, projectors, and Microsoft Office PowerPoint (okay, we're still working on true acceptance of these technology tools, but that's another story). The iPad is growing in popularity, as Apple and other app developers are continually pushing the device in new and different ways. For example, you can now view ebooks in the iBook’s app and use a Mac application, iBooks Author, to create them.

This past January, Apple introduced the iBooks Author application. The application allows authors to create interactive digital books in the ePub format that can be copied to the iBooks app on the iPad. The introduction of the application was originally geared toward the education and book publishing market. While reading about how the application worked, it dawned on me hat the capabilities were well matched for the enterprise as well. As I began to learn more about the application, I became intrigued with the idea about how this application could be used by our our staff to create rich electronic documents.

The employees in our office are already fairly comfortable using Microsoft PowerPoint to integrate text, photos, audio and video into their presentations. Creating these same presentations in the PDF format does have some limitations, and it can be challenging to embed audio and video to get them to play correctly. Using iBooks Author and the iBooks app on the iPad makes this process easy.

The primary requirement for iBooks Author is that you need a Macintosh computer, and then you can install iBooks Author for free from the App Store. (I wonder if Apple will see the light and release a Windows version of iBooks Author in the near future.)

To create an ebook, I recommend using the iBooks Author built-in Template Chooser (see Figure A) from the file menu. Figure A

Using the Basic template, you can then begin creating your ebook in the ePub format by adding text, shapes, tables, and charts (Figure B). Figure B

From the widgets menu (see Figure C), you can select different media types, keynote slide shows, interactive images, web pages, and HTML code. You can even bring in 3D images that can be manipulated spatially within the ebook. Figure C

Media file options include audio from your iTunes library (see Figure D), photos from your iPhoto library, and iMovie projects. You have the ability to preview these before you insert them into the ebook. Figure D

Once you've added all of the elements, save the book to a folder (see Figure E) or publish it directly to the iTunes Store as a package. Figure E

Getting the ebook (.ePub file) onto the iPad is easy. From the iBooks Author application, export the file to a folder on your Mac. Connect your iPad to your Mac through iTunes and drag the file into the iBooks app and then synchronize your iPad in iTunes -- or you can upload the file and use a file synchronization cloud storage service like Dropbox, Box, SugarSync, or a LAN and WebDAV. After you download the .ePub file from one of these services onto your iPad, just select the option to open it in iBooks. The file will be downloaded into the iBooks app, ready to open and view as an ebook (see Figure F). Figure F

In Figure G, you can see some examples of various features that have been added to the book: text, photos, movie, and 3D object. Figure G

Will the iPad, the iBooks app, and iBooks Author revolutionize how we create and author ebooks, user manuals, reference guides, and other electronic documents in our enterprises? Only time will tell. In the interim, the iPad is fast becoming an essential tool in our daily enterprise work environment, and these new tools are helping us to visually present information in diverse and rich ways. This combination of software and hardware is one more excellent example for the enterprise on how to move away from paper and embrace e-documents by using a tablet as an information tool.

For more information about creating ebooks for the iPad, check out "Publishing with iBooks Author," by Nellie McKesson and Adam Witwer.