CACTES

Technology Integration for teachers

What are e-books part 2

This is part 2 of a 3 part article.
In my search for e-book creators I looked at various sites and tried their recommendations. My criterion was simple. Find e-book authoring applications that were easy to use and could produce quality books that met the basic requirements for most e-readers. This meant they had to be very similar to basic word processors and published e-books in the EPUB format.
In my search I found software applications for Windows, Apple and Linux platforms. I also found some online sources for creating and publishing. There were applications that converted Word documents to the EPUB format but most of those didn’t, in my opinion, provide reliable desirable results.
My choice of applications boiled down to control and management of resources. I chose not to go with the online versions because I wanted to always have a copy on my computer without the need for Internet access. Sometimes I work best when I’m away from distractions, and isolated places often help me write. The isolated locations don’t always come with Internet access. I am reviewing and recommending these products for teachers and not all districts have classrooms with access to the Internet. So, online services may not be the best solution for many campuses.
 Software installed on a computer provides consistent access to work any where, any time. I needed to have solutions for all platforms. This includes Windows, Apple and Linux. Many districts have the money and resources for the major platforms but several districts take advantage of free and open source products like the Linux OS.
After some time searching and reviewing, I found several applications that I can recommend. I won’t go into how to use each of these applications. That would take several books. Use this as a starting place to find the application that fits your needs.
Sigil Software
A free application that is available for all platforms is called Sigil. It is part of the Open Source project and is maintained by volunteers. The software is free and so are the updates. Sigil comes with extensive documentation. It is easy to use and has the benefit of creating your e-book in the standard EPUB format right from the beginning. Sigil offers the basic word processing tools I was looking for, and it also has an under the hood option, as I like to call it. You can click a button to look at the underlying code that is used to create the e-book. As you want more from Sigil you might find yourself going into the code view to tweak a few things. All your files have the EPUB extension. When your done all you need to do is send it to an e-reader.
iBooks Author
Recently Apple released a free e-book authoring application, called iBooks Author. This application requires the Lion version of OS X. Specifically version 10.7.2. iBooks Author is template driven and offers many resources to include media like photographs, illustrations, sound, video and interactive widgets. I’ve used it lately to publish how to books. You’ll need an iPad with the latest version of iBooks to view these publications.
The process for creating books with iBooks Author is a mix of desktop publishing and multi-media editing. You could stick with text and use a variety of tools to help you with your work flow. These tools include style sheets for paragraphs, text, chapters, sections and characters. If you chose to create books that are more interactive than you can use a variety of widgets to help you embed pictures, video, audio, interactive images, Keynote presentations, quiz reviews, 3D interactive models and even develop your own HTML code and embed that within pages.
iBooks Author is easy to use if you are familiar with using Apple’s applications like Keynote, Pages and iWeb. If you have an Apple computer with Lion, I highly recommend learning how to use this tool. The greatest drawback with iBooks Author is its proprietary standard. Publications created with iBooks Author cannot be read on any other device other than an iPad with iBooks. To produce content on an Apple that publishes content in the EPUB format your best options are Sigil or Pages.
iWorks ’09 Pages
If you don’t have Lion on your Apple computer then you can use Pages. This is part of the iWorks suite, which includes Keynote and Numbers. You will need the latest version of Pages from the iWorks ’09 installation. It is also available on the App Store. Only the version that is part iWorks ’09 has the option to publish e-books in the EPUB format. You will need to have version 10.6.6 of Snow Leopard OS X. If you have the install DVD or CD then you can install it on computers with 10.4.11 or 10.5.6. This information was taken from Apple’s iWork support page. The requirement for 10.6.6 is because all future Apple software purchases and updates are handled through the App Store. The App Store requires version 10.6.6 or above.
With pages you can use the word processor just like with any document. You can add images, video and sound to your document. If you want to publish documents for e-books then you will need to apply specific styles so that e-readers can recognize chapters, sections, headings and body content in your book. Apple has a template you can use to get you started, on its support page for publishing e-books with Pages. I would recommend that you download this template to start your first e-book. That’s how I got my start.
learning to use styles can be a little confusing if you have never done any desktop publishing, but once you get the hang of it you’ll find it very easy. I provide professional development training on how to get started with Pages for creating e-books. After a little more than an hour most teachers feel comfortable with the layout and using styles.
Scrivener
Scrivener is a software that works on Windows and Apple computers. It costs about $50 and comes with quite a few more tools and options. Scrivener is not a dedicated e-book authoring tool like Sigil or iBooks Author. It’s primary purpose is to help authors of various styles produce and publish their works in a variety of formats. Most notably, the print format. Scrivener does offer a few more tools and options than the other software listed above. It is designed to help authors organize, edit and publish their works in a format that is helpful to most writers. I use this software quite often when publishing to print or digital media.
This is a short list of applications. These are a few quality choices and I hope you find them useful. Get your hands on the free software and try it out. You don’t have to spend a fortune to publish your own literary work. Write your masterpiece, save it as an EPUB and then upload it to your nearest web page. Invite others to download and read your work. If you’re in it for the money, then you can use services like Pubit from Barnes and Noble or Lulu.com. These publishers will get you started for free and you can start selling your books online. If you prefer to pay for a little more, then you can use Apple’s iBook store or bookbaby.com.
Your desktop is not the only place you can produce e-books. If you have an iPad then you can use software on the iPad to produce your own e-books.
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