Ebooks come in a few different formats. I write a lot about EPUB and MOBI/KF8 on this site, which are the formats used by pretty much everyone (Amazon, Nook, Kobo, Google, Sony, etc.). But there is another format: iBooks (iba).
Apple sells EPUB, but the company also developed their own proprietary format in early 2012. If you have a Mac, you can download the iBooks Author program for free and design and publish ebooks to the iTunes store. iBooks are different from EPUB and MOBI in that you can create interactive elements with a drag and drop interface. iBooks also tend to look best with very visual books.
At first, I wasn’t too impressed with iBooks Author (read my post, “iAuthor“). But since it launched, iBooks produced using the program have gotten more and more impressive. New services that cater to iBooks have also made the process of creating these ebooks much easier.
One site that stands out is iBooks Author Templates. Founded by Jess Barkell, the site offers 49 elegant templates. Jess kindly answered some of my questions about iBooks Author Templates.
S.R.: What’s your background? And how and when did you create iBooks Author Templates?
J.B.: I got hard to work co-creating iBooks Author Templates the day the iBooks Author application was launched.
I have a background in finance and graphic design (I know, I know…very opposite fields). Graphic design had always been a way to creatively express myself and contract out custom work for fun hobbies like learning to fly planes. But when iBooks Author was introduced at the Apple keynote, I knew I had an opportunity to use my design skills to create incredible interactive templates that weren’t just the “defaults” that came with the program.
S.R.: For those new to self publishing, what’s the difference between iBooks and a regular ebook?
J.B.: There are four major file formats in the ebook ecosystem: epub, iba, mobi/azw, and KF8. Each format can only be read on certain devices. Applications like Calibre allow for conversion between some file formats, although others contain Digital Rights Management (DRM) features to prevent unauthorized conversion or reproduction. Here are the major formats and the devices with which they are compatible:
ePub: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, NOOK, Kobo, Google, Sony, Samsung
This is an open format and perhaps the most popular. It supports both reflowable and fixed layout designs, and does not contain native DRM.
.iba: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch
The .iba format is Apple’s proprietary format for books created with its free authoring program iBooks Author. It is very similar to ePub, but can only be sold through the iBookstore. Technical information about the iba format is available here.
Mobi/azw: Older Kindles
Mobi is a format developed by French company Mobipocket, which was acquired by Amazon in 2005. The older Kindle format (.azw) is essentially identical to mobi, although it may contain DRM.
KF8: Kindle Fire, older Kindles with some limitations
Kindle Format 8 (KF8) is a new version of Amazon’s proprietary file format, designed to support more advanced HTML5 and CSS3 features. It is backwards compatible, which means that older Kindles will display KF8 books correctly—as if they are mobi or azw books—although without taking advantage of KF8’s new features. For more technical discussion of KF8, see this article.
J.B.: Our templates work exactly like the templates that come with the iBooks Author application. After you’ve purchased your template, it will automatically open in the iBooks Author application on your desktop (make sure you’ve downloaded the free iBooks Author application in the Appstore first).
Next, choose from a variety of different layouts that come with your template and mix and match as you see fit. Simply add text, graphics, movies, and more, so your book looks exactly the way you want. Drag and drop a Pages or Microsoft Word document to the Book pane to add it as a new section. Then, when you drag and drop in images, your text automatically flows around them.
Our templates are 100% customizable. With just a few clicks you can add interactive widgets, pop-overs, sounds, shapes, charts, and tables anywhere on the page. It really is that easy!
S.R.: Are there any guides to creating iBooks or using the templates?
J.B.: We’ve got a phenomenal list of iBooks Author tutorials and resources we’ve found around the web.
We also created a couple iBooks Author design tutorials for our YouTube channel (more coming soon)! Our first tutorial teaches you how to create a custom ibook template from a free ibooks author template. The second one shows you how to design elements using free tools you already own (no expensive software like Photoshop required).
And of course, you should always check out our blog where we continually add new content, tutorials, and video guides.
S.R.: Who comes up with new designs/how does iBooks Author Templates determine what kind of new templates to make?
J.B.: When I launched the site, all the designs were created by yours truly :). The iBooks Author software was completely new and at first, designing templates took some trial and error. However, as I learned the specifications needed in each template and demand for different types of templates started to grow, I began looking for other designers I could get on board to help give authors everything they needed. That was, shall we say, interesting.
I learned a lot in the process, including how to avoid scammers who were trying to sell me other peoples copyrighted material without permission. But eventually I found some great designers I love working with and we collaborate on a lot of the designs.
As far as templates ideas, we tend to listen to what our audience wants via a contact form on our website here! We want to give people what they need so anyone reading this shouldn’t hesitate to get in touch here.
S.R.: What are some of your more popular templates?
J.B.: The Photography, Bold Ideas, and Cookbook templates seem to be really popular at the moment. But our All Templates Bundle is a top seller because you get all 49 templates for just $199 (saving more than $640)! You can check out all the templates here.
If you’re interested in making an iBook, then check out iBooks Author Templates.