This afternoon, I’m leading a session on eBooks. It’s a big topic, and presumably, if you’re reading this, you would like to know a thing or two about them. Since I am going to tailor the workshop around individual needs and interests, I will point out a few links that may of interest below.
What are eBooks?
eBooks (or iBooks in Apple’s parlance) are electronic files that can contain text, but also multimedia content like audio, pictures, and video. They are typically designed to be read on a portable device, and in some cases, can be read on a regular computer.
What are different types?
I’d wouldn’t be the first to point out that the PDF format has supported text, video, audio, and images for some time. It’s held-up well over the years, but primarily it has excelled at presenting text and graphics in a high-resolution format that appears on a screen the way you intended. Zooming is possible depending on the reader program (such as Preview on the Mac), but that zooms into the whole page, not just text.
The newer formats are specifically considered digital book formats, and include .mobi, .epub, and Apple .ibooks. Amazon’s Kindle prefers the .mobi format and .epub is supported on iPads. Both formats are similar (but not equal) in capability, and feature the ability to re-size text (and affect pagination) based on user preference with the device or reader program.
Apple’s iBook platform is unique in that it was designed to support “multi-touch textbooks.” This format is created with their free iBooks Author software and provides support for rich media such as 3D models, Quicktime videos, and HTML 5 widgets.
Which type should I use?
It will depend upon your intended audience and the tools you have available. If you purchase a book, you will not have a choice, unless the book you want is available from a different vendor (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Google, and Apple are the four big ones with stores). If you are creating an eBook, at least here in Goochland, your choice right now is limited: it is ePub. As we upgrade computers next year, we can support Apple’s newer option with iBooks Author.
Can I find free eBooks?
Project Gutenberg was a pioneer in making free books available online. They started out as plain text files. They now offer their books in a variety of formats, so the choice of device is moot.
CK12 was the place to find the first flexbooks, or flexible textbooks. The site is now clearly focused around supporting STEM curriculum and has expanded beyond books with adapative assessment features. The site allows downloads in the most popular formats: .epub, PDF, and .mobi. The site also allows you to contribute to the books and take parts of the books instead of the whole thing. They are, after all, flexible!
In addition to these two examples, the big book stores online also now offer free books – either as samples, teasers, or books authors want to offer for free. To search in Apple’s store, you can use the iBooks app on the iPad or search via the iTunes Store.
How do I publish eBooks?
Once you have created an eBook, you can freely put it online in a variety of ways. The basic idea is that you want to be able to put the file (like a Word document) somewhere online so it can be downloaded “and installed” into your ebook reader. The typical choices work well: Schoology, blogs, or even Google Drive. You can even make it easier by converting the link to a QR Code and having students scan the code to access the book.
eBooks can also be published online through Apple’s store if you are using iTunes Producer. I took my team’s dissertation in practice and converted it into an iBook with iBooks Author. I then purchased an ISBN number and published it in the store this way. My options were to publish for free (and be free to publish it in other formats) or else publish it only in Apple’s format if I wanted to charge money. People can read those books on iBooks app in Mac OS X or on an iPad.
The second option with Apple’s distribution is to publish a book (for free) as part of an iTunes U Course. You’d need to be added to our course configuration to publish through our “storefront” on iTunes U.
And tips for making books?
The two tools we have deployed to create eBooks are Pages ’09 on the Mac and Book Creator on the iPad. Both programs create ePub files.
Book Creator has the advantage of pushing your new book directly to the iBooks app. It makes it super easy to preview your book.
Pages will use the Export function to save a copy of your Pages file into an ePub. When using Pages, here are a few things to remember:
- Don’t change your text with different fonts and settings. Remember that the end-user gets to control this.
- Use the “Style” features in Pages to apply styles: Headings, body text, etc. Pages can use these to format and organize your book.
- When inserting audio, photos, and videos, do not use the features that push text around the object. Instead, insert these media as its own “paragraph.”
- When applying styles, it’s best to save that step until the rest of your text has been inserted.
p>Creating a book, even if it’s just a (new) kind of file, can be exciting for young authors. The real power, however, is being able to publish. I’ve seen students produce short stories as eBooks and the experience was very rewarding for them. They had fun sharing their work, and that fun meant they were very engaged with the process. For teachers, preparing an eBook gives students a non-edible copy of a text with the support of multimedia that can be read offline (like PDF). Depending upon the reader, students can use the eBook reader’s functions to highlight text, and/or look up words with the built-in dictionary to aid their reading.