iBooks Author vs. EPUB for Read-Aloud Picture Books

posted Oct 31, 2012, 11:28 AM by Holloway McCandless
If you've sampled some of the better-known kids' books available for the iPad, you have probably noticed that many of them (particularly the famous ones such as Olivia, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, and Frog and Toad Are Friends) have a nifty read-aloud function, symbolized by a little megaphone icon in the upper right corner of the iPad screen. The megaphone icon lets you choose whether to have the e-book read to you automatically (the pages "turn" by themselves) or manually (you swipe the pages to advance through the e-book). These books were created in EPUB format, which is a protocol many galaxies beyond my techie aptitude. There are companies that specialize in converting physical books into EPUB format, and you can also do it yourself with some instructional materials.

The pro for making your kids' e-book in EPUB: maximum control, platform multiplicity.
The con for making your kids' e-book in EPUB: lots and lots of things for a French major to mess up.

I think you can guess what I decided. But for anyone gifted in computery stuff, EPUB is the way to go. If you are one of those lucky types, your best bet is to get Liz Castro's book, EPUB Straight to the Point, and associated guides. You can also learn a lot about e-books in general from her website, the eccentrically-named Pigs, Gourds, and Wikis.

The pro for making your kids' e-book with Apple's iBooks Author app: anyone can do it, even someone who has yet to figure out how to use Microsoft Word's new style formatting tools.
The con for making your kids' e-book with Apple's iBooks Author app: as of this writing, you can't make pages curl to turn, and adding read-aloud audio can be a little bit sticky (but it's do-able).

Another thing to consider is that the e-book you create with iBooks Author cannot be played/read on a Kindle or Nook, etc. for two reasons: Apple retains the rights to the e-book code that you create with the iBook Author app (but not your raw material--the actual text or images or audio remain your property), and it wouldn't work on another format anyway. (I'm sure someone will figure out a hack, but that's not what this blog is about.)

As long as you're happy just sharing or selling your e-book on the iPad, I think iBooks Author is the quickest and most aesthetic route to that goal. You can also output a PDF paper version of an e-book you create with iBooks Author and distribute that (though obviously it will not include any audio or video). 

If you want to see how my début effort came out, click on this link to the iTunes page for Princess Diamond and the Baseball Toad. It includes sample pages and the ability to download a free preview on your iPad.