iBooks 3.0 and iBooks Author 2.0: First Reactions

iTunes preview of iBooks update
  • Sumo

While there was only about three minutes of the October 23, 2012 Apple event dedicated to iBooks and the updates to iBooks and iBooks Author (you can watch those three minutes on CNET here ), it was enough to create a stir in the #ePrdctn/eBook creator community. Here is an a collection of responses I have found so far.



At The Digital Reader, Nate Hoffelder (@thDigitalReader) posted “iBooks 3.0 Wasn’t Nearly the Update I Expected.” In some ways it is a post-event response to his optimistic pre-event post “iBooks 3.0 Coming Next Week – Adds More Support for Epub3.” The bottom line is that Hoffelder is disappointed in the update. The positives include:

But at least this app does have access to new dictionaries for German, Spanish, French, Japanese and Simplified Chinese (iOS6 required). And the app can now receive free updates to purchased ebooks – including new chapters, corrections, and other improvements. There are also new sharing options (the usual Facebook, Twitter, email, Messages).

Baldur Bjarnason has also added this bit of information in the comments (which are worth reading):

They seem to have focused more on adding features for iBooks Author/multi-touch ebooks than for EPUB3.

For example, as far as I can tell, MathML does actually work, as long as the book is an iBooks Author book.

This is the first version that actually supports FXL rendition metadata as specified by the IDPF.

Baldur Bjarnason (@fakebaldur) has been tweeting the results of his tests on iBooks 3.0. It particular, he is listing what markup and CSS works and does not work in iBooks 3.0. Here is some of what he posted:

Damn. iBooks Author 2.0 looks awesome. Font embedding is automagical.

iBooks Author has become so good that it makes you really want to ignore the downsides (proprietary, limited market, only one store, etc.)

[iBooks format] It’s forked epub that is incompatible with every epub reader out there except ibooks. It *isn’t* epub.

I don’t think that’s the major issue for me. iBA books only work in ibooks. No other reader will support them, no matter what.

I *love* the continuous scrolling setting in iBooks.

“Being burned is a mere physical change, like the burning of a stick of wood, if it is not perceived as a consequence of some other action.”

That tweet just now is from John Dewey’s “Democracy and Education”. iBooks notes sharing seems to work nicely.

iBooks doesn’t make it easy to add author or title to the tweeted note, though.

Emailing notes from iBooks en masse is easy and works nicely. Preserves context but not formatting (italics and bold lost).

Two things missing from ereaders: 1. OPML export of notes. 2. The ability to embed highlights+notes into the epub file itself, PDF-style.

I *hate* the garish faux-book cartoon parody that iBooks uses. I can live with almost any weirdness to be rid of it.

Because OPML is the de facto interchange format for Outliner apps. Every major outliner supports it.

I’m not talking about using OPML as an archival format but as an interchange format for bringing material into a writing env.

Exporting the hightlights and the notes as OPML would be an *incredibly* useful feature for writers.

It doesn’t look like iBooks supports mixing FXL and reflowable pages like the EPUB3 FXL spec allows.

It doesn’t support bitmaps or SVG in spine either. Most of the rest seems to work.

IMO iBooks 3.0 doesn’t come close to supporting the full EPUB3+FXL specs. Big parts of the spec still missing.

Also, the differences in CSS rendering between iBook 3.0’s book/full-screen views and the scrolling view are a bit worrying.

As in, CSS rendering in iBook’s scrolling view behaves a lot more like it would in a web browser.

The only question in my mind that remains is what features Apple has implemented behind proprietary display-options.xml toggles.

The good news is that regular reflowable EPUB3 files in iBooks now seem to support absolute positioning.

Adding a rendition:spread = none meta property turns off the annoying fake book skeuomorphism in FXL EPUBs in iBooks.

overflow: scroll in FXL epubs in iBooks doesn’t work if you set it on body or html. Have to wrap the content in a div and set it on that.

The good new is that -webkit-overflow-scrolling: touch; works in FXL epubs

This was a highlight tweeted straight from iBookshttps://twitter.com/fakebaldur/status/261043659754065920 … It doesn’t seem to add author or title automatically.

Long highlights are truncated to fit 140 chars.

Email sharing works well. Haven’t tried facebook sharing as I don’t use facebook.

You highlight and sharing pops up as an option. Sharing old highlights works as well.

Yeah. I would have thought that attribution would be an important part of sharing a quote.

The rendition:orientation property seems to work in FXL books as it should.

iBooks doesn’t seem to support varying page sizes (differing viewport sizes) in FXL documents as the spec seems to allow.

EPUB3 Bindings don’t seem to work in iBooks either.

oeb-page-head and oeb-page-foot don’t work.

page-progression direction rtl seems to work. And vertical writing.

iBooks using an EPUB3 FXL file. Apple FXL files have no spec as afar as I know, just documentation.

Definitely looks like iBooks doesn’t support epub:switch.

MathML works in my tests but it isn’t working for some. iBooks is clearly intent on maintaining its reputation as a buggy mess.

Update: As we had all hoped, Baldur Bjarnason has written up his response to the iBooks 3.0 update in his post “iBooks 3.0.”

Walrus Books has a review with videos on their post “IBooks 3.0: THE TEST OF MORSE.” It is written in French, but Google Translate through Chrome will give you the just of the post. There are also a couple of Vimeo videos embedded to show you how iBooks works. The upshot:

To summarize: new design, new ergonomics, including through the use of this mode Scroll abolishing border roll (volumen) and codex, both of which now live. A good thing in a world where on the screen, everyone reads by scrolling. Walrus in, we believe it is a necessary and a real gain for reading on screen. Hoping that readers adopt. Do not forget to activate it via the menu iBooks. [Blame in on the Google Translation.]

Read Write has posted “Apple’s Slow But Radical Overhaul of Education,” which focuses more on how Apple is positioning itself to capture the secondary education market, though it does have this to say about the updates:

The next wave of that impact won’t come from iBooks 3 or the new version of iBooks Author, which are both nice, but relatively minor updates. If anything from Tuesday’s event will help push digital textbook adoption forward, it’s the hardware.

You can see a whole list of other sites that mention the iBooks announcement here, but most just talk just reiterate what Tim Cook said during the event.

iBooks Author

On YouTube, the Bookkry (thebookry) has posted the video “A look at the new iBooks Author 2 layouts and widgets” that goes through these new features. The video covers new layout templates that are portrait only, LaTex and MathML support, scrolling sidebar and pop-up widgets.

Mashable has a post by Samantha Murphy “Apple Reinforces Education Push with iBooks Author Update.” The highlight is

Now, publishers can add mathematical expressions into digital textbooks and access multi-task widgets. This will help keep students up to date with the latest educational content when updates become available. Apple also detailed new areas of customization such as personalizing fonts.

Here are some additional articles that mention the iBooks Author update, again, many just repeating what Tim Cook said in the announcement.


What is your reaction to the updated iBooks and iBooks Author? Are they big improvements? Are there other reviews worth sharing?

7 Responses to “iBooks 3.0 and iBooks Author 2.0: First Reactions”

  1. Linda Menkhorst says:

    All text hyperlinks created in iBooks Author 2.0 don’t work in iBooks 3.0 in my book. Haven’t seen anyone mentioning this. Can somebody check.

  2. Matthew says:

    Linda: I asked this question of the #ePrdctn community on Twitter, and it does not appear that anyone has run into this particular issue. A couple responses I received:
    Do you possibly have the link code improperly ending (ex: text)? [This is unlikely since the links were working in iBooks 2. Feel free to post the markup for your links if you have any question about this.]
    iBooks3 has bugs, doesn’t highlight every word in readaloud for example (tested in free Beatles book and Apple demo) [Which means you may want to file a bug report with Apple on this issue, especially if you used iBooks Author to create the file.]
    I hope this helps.

  3. Where can I report the issue to Apple, I have done this through the support option, but no idea if thats the right place. I am afraid I will have to change them all to the new pop-over, which works ok.

  4. Matthew says:

    Linda: An update to iBooks, version 3.0.1, was released on October 29, 2012. Apple reports the following changes in the update:
    • See all your iBookstore purchases in iCloud—right on your bookshelf with iOS 6
    • Scroll vertically through your books with the flick of a finger using the new Scroll theme
    • Receive free updates to purchased books—including new chapters, corrections, and other improvements
    • Look up definitions for words in German, Spanish, French, Japanese and Simplified Chinese with iOS 6
    • Share quotes or thoughts about your favorite book with friends on Facebook, Twitter, Messages, or Mail

    iBooks 3.0.1 resolves an issue where iBooks may unexpectedly quit

    The Apple Bug Reporter is here: https://bugreport.apple.com/cgi-bin/WebObjects/RadarWeb.woa/wa/signIn

    I believe you need to be registered as an Apple developer to use it.

  5. Matthew says:

    Macworld has a very thorough review of iBooks Author, “Hands-on with iBooks Author 2.0” http://www.macworld.com/article/2013246/hands-on-with-ibooks-author-2-0.html they posted on October 31, 2012.

  6. Linda says:

    The last update didn’t solve the problem, so I now created the new pop-ups as hyperlinks, lot of work, but it’s done.

    Regards, Linda