It was a couple of years ago when IDEO presented us with their vision for the future of books. It was revolutionary and bold, asking us what new experiences might we create? Sometimes it seems like the future is taking its time to arrive though. (Seriously, where are our hoverboards!) In the years that have passed since IDEO released that video a number of platforms have emerged for interactive ebook publishing.
There is no doubt that we are moving to a more decentralized publishing model and with healthy competition there is a solution for everyone. Whether you are technical and want full control, or need an intuitive GUI that is user friendly, or are seeking multiple distribution partners or want to create once and publish everywhere, there is now an interactive ebook platform to accomplish it.
Here are a few examples of the tools out there that can transform your words into an interactive experience.
Apple’s iBooks Author is an intuitive app that allows users to create visually rich textbooks for the iPad with photo galleries, video, interactive diagrams, 3D objects, maps, tables, shapes and animations.
Being an Apple product this is probably one of the more user friendly and approachable platforms for the less tech savvy. You can drag and drop Microsoft Word documents directly into the interface to add it to the content and your words automatically flow around your drag and dropped images. The app also helps with distribution via the iBookstore when you are finished.
There are some limitations however, which really impact the use cases. Only the iPad is supported for distribution. Additionally you are limited to the iBookstore for sales, from which Apple takes their usual cut of 30%.
So if you are looking for a multi-platform solution, with multiple distribution networks, this isn’t going to work for you. With the inherent limitations and competitors in the same space, Apple really needs to learn how to play nicely in the sandpit!
If Apple’s iBooks Author platform can be used by anybody, then Inkling Habitat is targeting a different market, the professional publisher. Born out of the observation that ebooks are reverse engineered from printed books, with interactivity as an after thought, Inkling Habitat offers a different solution.
An industrial platform that is built for publishing interactive content for both iPad and HTML-5 based web content, without the need for desktop software. Acknowledging that it can be a challenge to create visually complex stories, features include cross-platform compatibility with a single click, a collaboration tool, cloud publishing, semantic content organization, revision management and error reporting.
The cloud publisher and collaboration tool is particularly cool as it allows teams of writers and editors to collaborate from anywhere in the world. With content being treated semantically it shifts the model from page-based to software-based. This is a truly integrated publishing environment, kitchen sink and all.
Atavist is a multi-platform publisher by a collective of writers, filmmakers, editors, developers and other digital creatives, built with the express goal of expanding the limits of storytelling. The software is device agnostic, each time a new device is introduced, Atavist adds it to their system, allowing you to create once and publish everywhere.
The software allows you to include audio, video, animation and other interactive elements likes timelines and maps, within full-length ebooks, longform journalism, magazines or any other digital publishing you can think of. Also pitched as an easy to use platform without the need for any technical skills, it is endorsed by TED Books, which is a fairly powerful endorsement.
Moglue is a desktop application for publishers and authors to create interactive ebooks which can then be released as apps for both iOS and Android, simply and easily. It has been designed without the need for coding or technical knowledge, with drag and drop functionality and a user friendly interface.
You can easily import images and graphics into the app and then apply visual animations and interactive features to each. The current focus seems to be for children’s books and the interactivity is more limited, but the platform’s ease of use makes it accessible for any type of content. As well as distribution through the Apple app store, they have created MoglueBooks, an ebook store with a slightly different pricing model. You pay per book but keep 100% of the profits.
Kitaboo is another multi-platform publishing solution allowing you to add audio, video, animation and interactive elements to your ebook. Embracing the create once, publish anywhere model, Kitaboo adds new formats as they are released, ensuring your content is current and widely accessible.
Other features include cloud based publishing, empowering you to work from anywhere, a repository of your rich content for future use and re-use, and a powerful WYSIWYG editor with a simple interface. They also offer a full service option to do the dirty work for you.
Their target audience has largely been educational publishers with libraries of legacy content, but the platform is versatile enough for other publishing environments.
OK so I know I said top 5 platforms but I thought it was worth spending a minute with Vook. If you’re a writer that wants rich interactivity without having to create it yourself, then Vook is a great option. You send them the content and they do the formatting. More than just a conversion tool though, they enhance your book with multimedia elements like video, audio, charts and links.
They take care of distribution through a range of distributors with varying royalty agreements. They also have their own sales channel, which is extremely competitive offering you 85% of the net royalties.
If you are looking for a platform that gives you the flexibility to create and publish yourself, this isn’t it. But if you want trouble free interactive ebook creation and distribution, then Vook could be your solution.