iBooks Author & the Post-Website World

I just finished taking an extensive tutorial on the Apple product iBooks Author and it really got me thinking about the post website world. What I mean is that Apple has been trying for decades to create the right combination of tools to enable their users to unleash their creativity on the world. Among other problems, the chief conduit of sharing this creativity has been a mode of communication that was primarily designed to make it possible for scholars to access each others’ papers. In other words, from its inception, the Internet has a narrow set of tools meant to share text or highly compressed versions of other media. It’s remarkable how much can be shared via such small pipes and such non-artist-friendly tools. Apple’s last tool, iWeb, attempted to bridge the kind of page-layout tools used for magazines and graphic design with the limitations of html and the Internet. But as easy as these tools were to use I think Apple discovered that everyone did want to take pictures and make videos, but no one wanted to go through the hassle of putting up a website to post their creative works. But what could not be controlled on the Internet was quite a different thing if one were to use tablets, specifically iPads, as the means of sharing… But, realistically, we’re still dealing with more hassle than most are willing to deal with. I don’t think Apple cares about that or is under any delusion that the vast majority of wanna-be photographers or videographers are going to rush to iBooks Author to share their works. I think that tools like iPhoto and iMovie and the iPhone and iPad will continue to serve the needs of folks who just want to whip out the pictures from the weekend trip or videos from the vacation and YouTube and Facebook will continue to be the easiest way to share one’s work with friends and family. But what happens when one wants to create something more than snapshots from the weekend or something more involved than a 90-second video of the baby dancing? I know this problem well.

I have thousands of shots from the shuttle launches that I’ve attended over the past five-years and my previous sharing model was to delete the worst shots and post everything else on my flickr account. But lately I’ve come to the conclusion that quality is more important that quantity and that I need to take much better care to strip down my postings only to those shots that tell the story of the event and has the best visual qualities. Like I used to tell my middle-school journalism students, they needed to take the 300 pictures from the dance and find the five to ten that best tell the story. Anyway, I began to look for WordPress themes that would help me tell my visual stories and after over a year of looking never quite found the theme that fully delivered what I was looking for. Most seemed to be set up for photographers wanting to promote a small number of images or required an understanding of CSS just a touch above my pay grade. I even tried Apple’s “journal” feature that they snuck into the iPad version of iPhoto but it was still too clunky and couldn’t deliver the kind of page-layout functions that I wanted. Then, very recently, I’ve been thinking that I’m getting tired of running websites and not producing the writing and art that got me going in the first place. To that end I just finished moving all of my current course materials to the company LMS with a backup copy on a free WordPress.com account so that if I decided to pull the blogging plug altogether I could do it right now and not have to worry about my work responsibilities. I didn’t get into this so that i could spend my time updating plug-ins or fixing broken blogging widgets.

Watching the iBooks Author tutorial got me thinking that this would be a perfect platform for more long form writing and projects than is generally accepted on FaceBook and it would definitely give me the page-layout controls that I couldn’t get from the various WordPress themes. Photography, videos, interactive widgets… iBooks Author offers the traditional controls of magazine- and book-layout without the limitations or expense one would run into producing a full-color book of photographs. In fact, it completely blurs the line between what we mean by a “book” by enabling the creator to use whatever media one can bring to tell the story one wants to tell. I could still post a couple pix on the social networks and promote my work on a relatively inexpensive website, but pour my work and art into something that would allow for much more depth and control than I was able to manage using blogging tools.

There is the problem that iBooks Author produced e-books are currently limited to iPads only. Not even iPhone or iTouch users can view an iBooks Author e-book. But with the introduction of the next Mac OS, Mavericks, in the next couple months, the audience should open up to anyone running the new OS… That opens things up a touch, but that’s nowhere near as many as might view my work if it were posted on the open Internet… but then, truthfully, I don’t have too many visitors to my blogs or readers of my postings, so it’s not like I’d see a dramatic drop in “viewership.” Maybe by concentrating on more in-depth projects instead of a scatter-shot posting policy might serve me better as far as sharing with those actually interested in what I have to share. Either way, I want to concentrate on creating my art and not on managing the pipes needed to share my stuff with the rest of the world. Weird.


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