I know, but still, it makes me smile, and it does count as spotted in the wild:
Peachpit has posted an article by me about my love for books, and the iPad:
Lisa L. Spangenberg, coauthor of The iPad 2 Project Book, readily confesses to being nuts about books. Like many of us, she is gradually becoming more comfortable with substituting digital reading for paperbacks and hardbacks, but she is already hopelessly in love with the many free (or very cheap) apps that let lovers of reading explore the written world in a whole new way.
There are so many super iPad apps for readers and bibliophile’s that I’ll be posting about some apps that I had to remove from the Peachpit article because it was already quite lengthy. In the meantime, head on over to Peachpit to read The Best iPad Apps for Book Lovers.
This was a pleasant sight when I logged into the iBooks bookstore tonight.
Today Apple posted a revised version of its iBooks app for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch. The latest version of iBooks adds automatic hyphenation, more richly illustrated layouts, user-specified collections, and note printing among its other improvements.
For a complete description of the new goodies in iBooks, see my TidBITS article, “iBooks 1.2 Ups the Ebook Ante,” 15 December 2010.
Here are two things that I didn’t mention in the article:
- The wood artwork has changed; the new wood has a different grain and is lighter.
- The book collections are arranged in a circular fashion: when you get to the last collection in your list by flicking right to left, the first collection comes up next. Similarly, if you are on the first collection, flicking left to right takes you to the last collection.
A little over a week ago, Dennis posted about Apple’s update to Pages that allows one to export Pages documents as ePub books, ready to be placed on the iPad. One thing that he did not cover was the use of media other than text in a book.
Having spent a good part of my career producing multimedia, I wondered if one could include audio and video files inside of a Pages file and export it as an ebook. The answer: Yes, you can.
This morning, I created a two-page ebook. On one page, I put an MP3 file of Teddy Roosevelt speaking; on another, I put a small, rather silly QuickTime movie. The audio file appears on the page as an audio controller; the video file appears as a movie frame. When you play the audio file, it continues to play when you turn pages in the book (that’s why I created a two-page book: to see what would happen to playback when the page turns). The video file, on the other hand, stops playing when you turn the page.
This makes some sense. Audio has no visual component, so turning the page should not affect it. Video, on the other hand, is meant to be watched, so, if you turn the page, it should stop playing. However, the video player is smart enough to remember its playback position (at least until you close the book) so you can go back to the page and pick up playing where you left off.
Although ePub is not the best medium for creating truly rich interactive audio and video presentations, it does work well within its limits. I see great promise for this capability in education.
Update: Details for the geeky. The audio file is a standard MP3 file, 128kbps. The QuickTime movie has these specs: 320×240, 15fps, Apple MPEG4 compressor, AAC mono audio at 44.1kHz; 998kbps data rate. As for file size, the book size looks like a sum of the two source files. The original movie file is 4.8MB. The audio file is 3.8MB. The book file is 8.6MB. The amount of text in the book is only a few hundred characters.
This Ars Technica post by Chris Foresman about iPads in education doesn’t mention one of the biggest hurdles that ebooks on iPad face in education: DRM, and how it cripples note-taking and citation.
Right now, all of the high-profile ebook reading apps for the iPad (Barnes & Noble, eReader, iBooks, Kindle, Stanza) allow some form of annotation; that is, writing a note attached to a passage in an ebook, or, at minimum, highlighting a passage. So far, so good.
Quoting, however, is another matter: only one of the apps, iBooks, allows a student to copy short passages of text to the clipboard so that it can be quoted it in a paper. But even iBooks’ support of quoting is limited: iBooks only allows copying from non-DRM protected books, such as the texts from Project Gutenberg. Books from most publishers in Apple’s iBook Store use Apple’s Fairplay DRM, and the copy function is not an option in those books.
And even though all of the major apps support annotation, none of them allows you to the export those notes. In short, a student can take as many notes as he likes, but he can’t use those notes outside of the book.
As a result, the student’s study-workflow is disrupted in such a way as to make the iPad arguably less efficient and useful than traditional non-digital books. A student with three or four paper texts on her desk, with sticky notes in each, and a spiral pad of lecture and library notes, is probably going to pull all of that available information into her paper far more easily than a student who has to switch back and forth between ebook apps to consult notes, and who has no way to view those same notes while composing her paper on her iPad. At best, the iPad-using student can consult her iPad while writing the paper on a different computer.
These obstacles for iPad-based e-study are not technological obstacles. They are directly related to current publishing business practices that require stronger DRM protections for ebooks than the protections imposed by the physical universe on print books. Yes, you can cut and paste, or photocopy, physical books: it is a tedious business, and the very nature of the physical universe makes it so, but you can do it. Not with DRM-protected ebooks, though: the best you can do is manually transcribe, and you have to do it on device other than your iPad.
Until publishers see a compelling business case for abandoning their total text lockdown strategy and developing DRM systems that facilitate the fair use of brief portions of protected material, iPad and other digital devices of its kind are not going to take their proper places in education. The chances that publishers will ever do so are very small. That chances that the U.S. Congress will fulfill its Constitutional obligation to “promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts” and revise digital copyright law to make publishers do so are even smaller.
And that’s a terrible disservice to everyone.
[Update: revised the third to last paragraph to make the point clearer.]
Today Apple released a minor update to iTunes (to 9.2.1), which provides the various performance improvements that such updates usually include. You can get it from Software Update, or just choose Check for Updates from the iTunes menu in iTunes.
Of more interest, to me, is the update to iBooks that was also released today. iBooks version 1.1.1 now supports audio and video in epub books (which will be cool when more books include those types of material), provides the usual performance enhancements (including better performance with PDFs), fixes a glitch that can interrupt some downloads, and, my favorite improvement, allows you to double-tap an image in a book to see it larger.
This last has improved the ebook reading experience of The Lord of the Rings: I can now actually read the maps! Once you double-tap an image, you can unpinch to get the image bigger than the screen, and then drag the expanded image around. The operation is both fast and slick.
You don’t need LOTR, of course, to see this feature in action; try it with the pictures in the free and included copy of Winnie the Pooh.
Thank you, nameless Apple software engineers who finally made images expandable in iBooks!
Update: I just discovered that this update also fixes the PDF link problem that I described here.
Tonya Engst, the Empress of All Content at TidBITS publishing, tweeted the following earlier today:
Anyone else have a Take Control PDF in iBooks 1.1 on iPad? Links mostly not working in portrait view, but a-okay in landscape.
Using my very own copy of my marvelous (really, you should buy one!) Take Control of Syncing Data in Snow Leopard, I have the same experience: tapping an intra-book link when the iPad is in vertical display mode has no effect; tapping the same link when the book is displayed horizontally works.
I have no idea why this happens, but it seems to be related to the current version of the iPad OS; iBooks 1.1 on an iPhone running iOS 4 does not have the same problem according to Tonya.
I thought it would be simple. It turned out to be simple, but not intuitive.
Here’s how you do it: locate a PDF on your computer and drag it onto the iTunes 9.2 application or the iTunes window’s sidebar. The next time you connect your iPad, the PDF shows up under the Books syncing tab.
So, yes, very simple.
By “not intuitive,” however, I mean that I had to fumble around for quite a while before I had success getting a PDF onto my bookshelf. In fact, the successful method was the third method I tried.
First, I thought that any digital book already in my iTunes music library would be available automagically. I mean, why not? iTunes certainly knows that a digital book purchased from the iTunes store is a PDF, right? It actually says that it’s a “PDF document” right in iTunes. Not so. Any digital books in your music library stay right there: iBooks knows them not. [Side note: I even made a playlist in iTunes that contained only digital books, hoping to sync that playlist to the iPad. However, that playlist didn't even appear under the Music syncing tab in iTunes. D'oh!]
I also tried dragging a PDF I dug up in the Finder into the File Sharing area under the Apps syncing tab. No luck. iBooks doesn’t appear there as an app that understands file sharing.
At last, in some desperation, I dragged the PDF onto the iTunes window’s sidebar. Finally, success.
So, if you want PDFs to appear in iBooks, you have to drop the PDFs directly onto iTunes from the Finder (or from Windows Explorer if that’s the way you roll).
As for the digital books in my iTunes library? They don’t appear in the iBooks collection even if I drag them from their location in my computer’s file system onto iTunes! Really. I don’t know why.
Silly? You betcha!
[Update: You can get the digital books from iTunes albums onto the bookshelf if you first remove the books from your iTunes music library: right-click a digital book in your music library and delete it. Let iTunes put it in the Trash. Then drag it out of the Trash to somewhere else on your computer and then drop the file back onto the iTunes window sidebar or the iTunes application. iTunes then adds it to the Books collection. It's like driving from Boston to Cambridge by way of Saskatoon.]
[Another update: There's an easier way to get digital books from the music library onto the bookshelf. Get Info on the book, click Options, and change the Media Type from Music (!) to Book. The book is listed in the Books collection once you do that, and can be synced to the iPad (or iPhone).]