Apple may have done it yet again.
The iBooks system launched today puts a powerful but easy-to-use authoring system into the hands of anyone who wants it, presaging the publication of dynamic ebooks by the millions—texts that will, of course, range in quality from the wretched to the superb—and, I should add, from the free to the expensive. Apple, being Apple, has tied this software in pretty tightly to its own iPad: books made by iBooks Author are made to be viewed on an iPad and may only be sold on Apple’s iTunes Store. (There is also an ability to export a book from Author into PDF or TXT format, though how much functionality survives the transition to PDF I haven’t yet discovered.)
Apple’s video ad for this system—”Apple in Education,” because the system is aimed ostensibly at writers of textbooks — gives you a decent sense of what’s possible, once you get past the somewhat saccharine and trite testimonials about teaching.
At first glance, which is all I’ve given it, iBook Author seems to offer a great deal of promise. It looks about as easy to use as Keynote or PowerPoint, though I imagine some of the more dynamic elements will take a bit of getting used to; and the business of designing for touch instead of mouse clicks will require practice.
I see a big future here for the use of iBook Author in law firms as a creator of teaching / reference tools, and, indeed, to make promotional and explanatory material for clients. Of course, everyone will need to have an iPad. Which is the plan.