EPUB 3 Case Study with Kaplan

The last of the four part Understanding EPUB 3.0 webcast series was dedicated to a case study, presented by Kaplan Publishing. To read the about the other three webcasts, please see my posts EPUB3, EPUB 3.0 Workflow, and The New Kindle Format (KF8).

Kaplan students are very attached to print products, since they’ve developed their study skills around them. So the question was, how to deliver an experience to students that would transition them from print to digital? To test this, Kaplan developed three different ebooks that tested the limits of EPUB 3.

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Three weeks ago, Apple launched an exciting new app: iAuthor. It sounded very promising. Using iAuthor, you can drag and drop to make enhanced ebooks. iAuthor and iBooks2 were released on the same day with the intention of making it easier for students to use interactive textbooks. All textbooks sold on the iBookstore are priced at $14.99 or less. But anyone can use iAuthor to make their own enhanced, interactive ebooks and sell them on iBookstore. At first, the articles about iBooks2 and iAuthors was very exciting. 

After a few days, however, all the restrictions and drawbacks became apparent. On top of that, recent data shows that e-textbooks are not that popular. Although 46% of students are interested in buying textbooks on an iPad, only 10% actually use a smartphone or tablet for classwork.

My co-workers and I sat down on Tuesday to experiment and learn as much about iAuthor as we could so we could determine its usefulness for Simon & Schuster. Here is some of what we found:


  • drag and drop is easier than coding, for certain things
  • The widgets are cool, especially the interactive images
  • iAuthor outputs an ebook that is both fixed format and reflowable, so you don’t have to design twice (vertical and horizontal views)


  • If you’re used to programs like InDesign, then iAuthor feels clunky and a little disappointing
  • Crack open the ebook, and you’ll see some very messy code
  • It still takes a lot of time and effort to make a beautiful ebook, and these types of ebooks only apply to certain books (cookbooks, highly designed books, etc.)
  • Apple only penetrates 10% of the ebook market, and if you make a book on iAuthor you can only sell it via Apple
  • Because an iAuthor book is in the .iba format, there’s a chance one day this format will be outdated and unusable, and you will have no way of accessing the book you worked so hard on

My personal opinion is that iAuthor is great if you’re designing a digital-only book. You’ll have to plan to take advantage of the widgets, because a text-only ebook will not be worth making in this format. However, you should also be sure that your target market uses iPad, since they are the only ones who will be able to see it. Still, for people who don’t know programming, this is a good tool (though not terribly easy to use, at first).

It’s too bad that everyone is using their own proprietary formats. This makes things more complicated for everybody, and consumers suffer because they have to have multiple tablets and ereaders to access all their content. This also limits creativity, since ebook producers have to spend all their time formatting ebooks for all devices, instead of being able to think of cool new features they could add via one universal program/format.

iPad: 2.0

Friday, March 11 was the day the iPad 2 came out. I happened to be in California, so I can only imagine how long the lines were in New York, but at the Shops at Mission Viejo, there was a line that wrapped around the second floor twice. People sat in lawn chairs and cheered when the folks at the Mac store announced they would be opening at 5 p.m. I can only hope they had a lot of iPad 2’s in stock. As far as I can tell, the only real differences between the iPad and the iPad 2 is that it is thinner and has two cameras. Anyone out there who owns either one care to comment?

This Week In Publishing

I’ll keep it short and light-hearted, since it’s almost Christmas and all.

First, Nick Bilton, from the New York Times, has declared that this year was not in fact the year of the tablet. It was actually the year of the iPad, and next year there will be more competitors. It will be interesting to see, since so many people want the iPad for Christmas.

2010 Was Not ‘The Year of the Tablet’

Next, Crown, an imprint of Random House, announced that early next year they will be publishing a book by the former spokesman of WikiLeaks, Daniel Domscheit-Berg. Daniel’s book will be a sort of tell-all, leading up to what made him and other employees leave the company. And earlier this month, Daniel announced that he and other former WikiLeaks employees will be launching their own WikiLeaks-type site soon, called OpenLeaks.org.

Crown to Crash Tell-All by WikiLeaks Insider

Oprah Winfrey wrapped up her year in books by reconciling with Jonathan Franzen and reading Charles Dickens for the first time. She also recently shot four shows in Australia (which is where I am right now), and there are still signs up around the city for her. On my way from the airport to the hotel today, I saw a couple hilarious ones that stuck out. For example, one had two pictures: a Barbie doll and a barbecue with shrimp on it. The ad was for a cruise ship that told Oprah they would help her figure out the difference. Another ad for the same cruise ship had a blown-up image of Tom Cruise jumping on Oprah’s couch, and saying they were the better cruise choice.

Year in books: Old, new mixed up in material, technology

Lastly, and this one’s just for fun, if you Google reading in the “images” section, you’ll find a picture of a dog with glasses, reading a large book. Why?

Strangest Google Images Result for the Word ‘Reading’

Barnes & Noble

Rumor has it that Barnes & Noble may no longer exist one year from now. In the meantime, I can enjoy their stores and Christmas decorations.

And I can also play around with their Nook. The new color Nook was recently released. It uses LED like Apple’s iPad, but it’s formatted similarly to Amazon’s Kindle–with a twist. There’s an interesting feature that shows book covers, if you like that sort of thing. Personally, I’m a Kindle fan.

11/29/10: Publishing This Week

California, as a way to save money and improve education, is going to use open source, free textbooks (yay!). Since there’s not enough money to give every student a laptop, there’s some skepticism as to how well this will work. But it’s the first state to try this and something is better than nothing (California K-12 education was ranked 49th in 2009). As a side note, Michelle Rhee, former chancellor of the District of Columbia Public School Systems in Washington, D.C., was the guest on The Colbert Report on Dec.1. She said that in the 1950s, California was #1 in education. What happened?

California Embraces Open Source Digital Textbooks

Sesame Street this week added a monthly subscription option to its e-bookstore. Now users can pay either $3.99 a month or $39.99 a year and gain access to over 125 cloud-based e-books, including “There’s a Monster at the End of This Book” (one of my favorites when I was a kid!)

Sesame Street Adds Monthly Subscription Option to E-Bookstore

Are scammers taking advantage of Barnes & Noble’s Nook and Amazon’s Kindle? Supposedly there are people selling free books through these e-readers. For example, one person has been selling The Brother’s Grimm fairytales, even though they are no longer copyrighted and therefore in public domain. (And you can download for free at Gutenburg.org). Buyer beware!

Barnes & Noble letting users sell free books on the Nook?

Google is launching its own online bookstore, and here are five reasons why this will change the e-book industry.

Five Reasons Why the Google ‘Editions’ Bookstore Matters

Groupon is becoming a big deal, even in the publishing industry. Simon & Schuster now offers Groupon promotions for any of their 35,000 titles. And now Google is trying to buy Groupon. What will this mean for publishers? Some people think Google will evolve to control everything signifiant on the web. This may seem bad, but I don’t think it will end up changing Simon & Schuster’s strategy, so long as it continues to work. I once had a professor who said that big conglomerate media companies are actually good for consumers. He admitted that sounded counterintuitive, but he explained that the less competition, the better, because then the big companies can focus on providing products and services for smaller niches and can keep costs down. Since they’re not worried about competing with themselves, and they’re making all this money just from being huge, the products and services don’t need to be expensive to keep the company afloat. I’m not sure I totally agree with this—I’d have to do my own research before I came to a conclusion—but it is a different way of looking at things.

Google in talks to buy Groupon deals site

UPDATE: Sources: Groupon rejects Google’s offer; will stay independent

Richard Branson has developed an exclusive to iPad magazine, Project. Seems to go with the line of thinking that exclusivity and coolness will sell, so we’ll see how it works out for him.

A Peek Inside Richard Branson’s Project iPad Magazine

According to Barnes and Nobles second quarter, it’s the Nook and digital content that is supposedly helping them. They plan on launching more digital devices next year.

Nooks and Digital Content Drive Barnes & Noble

The e-reader market is dominated by Amazon’s Kindle and Apple’s iPad. More people are expected to buy e-readers over the holidays, but a recent survey shows that the iPad is expected to beat the Kindle this year.

Impact of the Apple iPad vs. the Amazon Kindle on the e-Reader Market

iPad Beating Kindle This Holiday Season, Says Survey

Next Tuesday, Dec. 7, Digital Book World will sponsor a one hour webcast devoted to what recent developments in electronic publishing (such as color in e-readers and new apps) will do to children’s book publishing.

Webcast Set on the Impact of Digital Developments on Kids Publishing

This is related to book or magazine publishing, per say, but it does have some legal implications for publishers in general. On Sunday, Nov. 28, WikiLeaks began publishing thousands of leaked United States embassy cables. Some people claimed this was a terrorist act, though I read somewhere that most of this information was already out in the public, and it was just the shock of seeing it all together. However, there are claims that this potentially damaged the U.S.’s relationship with other countries. I read one or two of the cables, and it sounds like gossip to me. But to the point. The founder, Julian Assange may have already been secretly indicted by the U.S., for violating the Espionage Act. I’m currently taking a publishing law class and so far there haven’t been too many cases involving the Espionage Act, but I am concerned about what this means freedom of speech-wise. I understand security is important, but I am also an avid, liberal supporter of the First Amendment.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange:  Has US already indicted him?

On another note, I mentioned the Bad Sex in Fiction Award in my post, “Writing Sex.” Well The Guardian wants to know why there isn’t a good sex in fiction award.

How about a good sex in fiction award?

For would-be first-time authors or excited writers such as myself, Amazon and Penguin are once again having their Breakthrough Novel Award Competition. Two grand prize winners will be published by Penguin Group. Good luck!

Amazon and Penguin Announce Fourth Novel Award Competition

And lastly, Simon & Schuster announced on Nov. 30 that they have “sealed a book deal with God.” You can learn more about the book on the Twitter Feed, @TheTweetofGod.

Simon & Schuster Cuts ‘Book Deal with God’

This Week in Publishing

Here’s what’s going on in the publishing industry this week:

It’s JFK month. Makes sense, since this year marks the 50th anniversary of his election.

On Monday The Perseus Books Group, along with NBC News, released a new iPad app, JFK: 50 Days. The app complements the new book, “JFK Day by Day,” and it features 50 days of JFK’s presidency, including rare footage from NBC, interviews, and intimate Kennedy family moments.

iPad app gives an intimate look into JFK presidency

Expanding on that last link, Gallery BooksSimon & SchusterCBS News and The Discovery Channel have collaborated to produce a second e-book about JFK’s presidency. The e-book, titled “The Kennedy Detail,” will be released on November 22, the day The Discovery Channel will premiere it’s documentary, “The Kennedy Detail.”

Simon & Schuster to Release Enhanced E-Book on JFK

Also LIFE, where I’m currently working, published an exclusive gallery of never-before-seen photos of JFK at the beginning of this month to commemorate the election.

JFK: Unpublished

In other news, Google has signed an accord with France’s biggest book publisher Hachette Livre on the scanning and sale of out-of-print books, which grants the publisher wide control over pricing and content–apparently the deal covers about 50,000 books. Hachette will be the first publisher to collaborate with Google. Interesting, since in December 2009 a court in Paris ruled that Google had violated French copyright law against La Martinière.

Google, Hachette ink accord on book scanning

Copia, a social networking site for book readers, has finally gone live. But they also canceled production of their ereader devices and instead will partner with a yet unnamed company. This was a surprise since they had previously announced they would offer a $99 e-reader. Some of the features of the iPad app will be writing in the margins of e- books.

Copia’s Book Retail Social Network Goes Live; Devices Cancelled

And lastly, it looks like the iPad will soon have some serious competition (maybe). Blackberry is planning on releasing it’s Playbook tablet sometime next year. In the meantime, here’s a (slightly biased) video comparison of the iPad and the Playbook.

Blackberry Playbook vs. iPad: A Video Comparison