Wednesday, 18 January 2012

10 Great Things About iBooks

In the last post I outlined 10 things Apple need to fix in iBooks. Who knows, maybe tomorrow at DBW, they'll tick off some of my list.

But in the meantime, here are 10 things I love about iBooks.

1. Technical
The way I see it, Apple read the epub3 specs ahead of time and cherry-picked some cool bits they liked for the iBooks specification. It's epub with a twist. So, for 6 months now we've been selling books made up of CSS, HTML, Javascript (even JQuery). We can animate and transform and bring our books to life. KF8 doesn't even come close. Check out the Yellow Submarine iBook if you haven't seen it.

2. Quality
Being able to drop in 2 million pixel images means we can get fantastic image quality in our books. Add in the slick page turns, the freedom to view landscape, portrait, big or small, and whatever we make as an iBook looks great.

3. Fixed width
We make digital facsimiles of rare books, so this is a deal-breaker for us.

Apple were the first to do this. Without this we don't have a business.

4. Audio and video
iBooks handle video really slickly. Tap to play anywhere in your page. Bring it up, full width, rotate the screen to landscape and you've got a 720p video playing. Tap to stop and the video resizes back down into it's slot on the page and you pick up where you left off. Elegant.

5. Apple people
The people I deal with at Apple want us to succeed. They're helpful (within their constraints) and smart. They know how the deck is stacked and are trying to make things better. I don't get a re-hash of unhelpful documentation I just read online.

6. Unified platform
It's hard to over-stress the ease of developing for a unified platform. Compared to the apocalypse that developing an Android app must be (x different OS versions, y different screen resolutions, z different processors) or even Kindle (Fire, iPad App, iPhone App, Windows App, Android App etc etc) we can test and release in hours. Sure Apple's walled garden approach has some downsides, but this is the reason iBooks (and apps) look consistently great.

7. Growing fast
When you publish a print book, you're releasing into the wild a product with a fairly finite market. Our universe is much smaller - just those with iOS devices. But it's growing at a breakneck pace. Maybe 32m iPhones last quarter, 11m iPads. Our potential market is doubling every year or so.

8. Great devices
People love using iPhones and iPads. They come at the top of consumer satisfaction surveys. Having our books run on great devices means we have happy customers. Imagine if we had to support all those buggy $99 e-readers that are made of tinfoil and glue. That bad hardware experience rubs off on us.

9. Some UX aspects
Despite my criticism of the iBooks UX in the last post, some of the iBooks UX works well. The navigator is great, multiple table of contents views is great, and the integration with dictionaries and notes is cool. We're really not there yet, but the foundation is solid.

10. Ongoing improvements to IBooks
This seems to come in fits and starts. The first 6 months from release didn't see much action, then we seemed to rocket from 1.0 to 1.4 with all sorts of improvements. Then a hiatus and recently some more changes. It seems like Apple have some resource to throw at this, and there is a commitment to improve the platform.

So tomorrow will be interesting. 

It really feels like the future of publishing belongs to those who can make the numbers work for content-creators. That means self-publishers, lean indie publishers and legacy publishers who can reinvent the business model and articulate their value.

I wrote my first multimedia app using Hypercard in about 1991. Right now our tools aren't even that mature yet. All of us could do with better tools and a bigger market. Here's hoping...

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