Apple, today, made a major announcement regarding the future of ebooks. iBooks is getting a significant upgrade to version 2.0, and authors will now be able to create completely interactive digital textbooks.
Think of it like “Garage Band” for iBooks. (If you don’t know what Garage Band is, it’s a Mac app that allows you to easily create songs using a variety of tools and pre-recorded sound bytes).
An announcement about ebooks was expected for today, but nobody was quite sure what the tools would look like.
The tools that Apple has unveiled include a new Mac application, iBooks Author, and better integration with iTunes University. The iBooks Author tools is now available via the Mac App Store.
It’s a fairly large (136mb) download, but it’s easy to use. When you open the app, you are greeted with several templates to choose from. I selected the Science/”editorial” template to try the app out. You get a few pages of foreign language to demonstrate how the book might look using the template.
To add a picture or movie, simply drag and drop it into place.
The options available are impressive.
You can add 3D rotating images, Keynote presentations, interactive images, and even custom html! Not to mention you get the same tools available to you in Pages, such as charts, tables, shapes, and text boxes.
If you look closely at the screen shot above, you’ll notice an Orientation button at the top. This lets you preview how the book will look with the auto-rotate is engaged. There’s also inspector options and other goodies. One thing to note is movie support is limited to .m4v movies. You’ll need to open your video file in Quicktime and export it using the “iphone” or “ipad” settings. Also, help files are entirely online at this point, so you’ll need to be connected to the Internet to access them.
The other major change announced was iTunes University integration. According to CNET, teachers will be able to share syllabi and send messages to students through iTunes. Students will be able to mark assignments complete and have interaction with the class. It will become a replacement for Blackboard and other online educational technologies. And best of all, since iTunes is freely available to the public, it should expand the offerings to those of us who are no longer in school.
[Image via cnet]