Stupid iBooks Author
I feel genuinely sorry for people that have authored content in iBooks author. Its not because I am feeling defensive since I am involved in the development of a book production platform. I just feel sorry for them because they are part of Apples lock in strategy and it has some very significant impacts on their content.
I was reading a slashdot thread about Booktype and enjoying the conversation. Some very interesting and informed takes on the whole book world (and some not so informed rants!). One of the very last comments was by someone that made a book with the iBook Author. Naturally curious I downloaded the book to have a look. Knowing that iBooks Author makes epubs I was surprised to see the ‘.ibook’ suffix to the file instead of ‘.epub’. So first I tried opening this with calibre. The book loaded into Calibre ok but when displayed all I got was a list of the folder contents. Epubs are archived zip files, when you open them with an ‘archive manager’ you just see a folder structure. Since Apple uses the wrong suffix any other application that opens it will only see that the file is a zip archive and open it like it would any other zip file and display the folders and files inside.
It kind of kills me that this happens. Its not Cailbres issue its the non-standard way of Apple to screw everything up for everyone. Why not just call the file an epub?
So I changed the name of the file so that it ended with the ‘.epub’ suffix and I tried again. Of course now it opened. However the pages were scrambled. Why? Because Apple uses non-standard CSS controls to layout the books. For a good article and insight into this strategy read Baldur Bjarnasons post about this.
Its really a pity. The author spent a lot of time on this book it seems and I would really like to enjoy their work. So even though this looks like it could be a very nice book I can’t read it. It really can only be read by the iPad. If thats ok by you then sure – but its probably a good idea to ask yourself why. Would you accept these conditions if they were true for books before the iPad came along? Imagine if all paper books made with an Apple desktop publisher application looked scrambled unless viewed with special Apple glasses? Well maybe for an art project it might sound kinda cool but for a normal book? Sound ridiculous? Thats where you are now if you make content with iBook Author.