Although Apple claims most of their products are game changers, iBooks Author actually is. Not just as a free platform to create books for the iPad, but as an editing tool.
Despite my preference for curling up in a chair with a cup of coffee and a red pen, most of my editing work is done on-screen. This way, edits are not lost, pages aren’t eaten by the cat, and it’s easy for me to share my work when it’s done. Lately, though, I’ve been making most of my notes by importing work into iBooks Author, then exporting or previewing the file in iBooks on the iPad.
Wait, can’t you do that with a PDF?
I could. And I have. But I am not a fan of PDFs in general; I’d rather use a Word doc or a rich text file. And iBooks won’t mark up PDFs; you need a third party app such as Papers.
So why go to the effort of downloading iBooks Author when I could get another free app and use a PDF?
On the iPad, iBooks has a number of useful built in options, making it possible for readers to mark up e-text the same way they’d mark up a print version. To date, you can:
- add bookmarks
- highlight in yellow, green, blue, pink or purple
- add scrolling sticky notes
- underline in red.
Can I get my notes off the iPad?
Yes. Your notes (not highlights, unfortunately), are also easily converted to study cards and exported. Within the book, tap to bring up the top nav and select the icon that looks like a study card to reveal a list of your notes. Then you can select what you want and email the notes. Each note will show your comments, a page number, a chapter, and a date.
So how do you use it?
Most of the time, I make notes on the iPad then input the changes manually–it really is like using a print version, but without the risk of losing a page. I also color code my notes, using yellow for deletions, blue for additions, pink for ideas, and red underlining for clunky wordy. When I’ve completed an edit, I mark it green, so I can see my progress at a glance.
Although iBooks doesn’t replace the track changes function in Word, it’s a useful editing tool, especially if you’re only making comments (as opposed to highlighting sections for later reading/study). So far, I’ve found it best for larger documents (in the 20-80k range), although, if the notes are complex, I often end up using my bluetooth keyboard.
And for less complex work? Anything under 10 pages isn’t worth the effort of setting up the file unless you want to use images/view images in the context of the work.
Note: I do most of my editing in portrait mode; in landscape, it’s too easy to accidentally turn the page whenever I go to edit a note.
How to import your work into iBooks Author
- Download iBooks Author from the Mac App Store and install.
- Select a blank template. (I like “Classic” and “Basic.”)
- Go to Insert > Chapter from Pages or Word Document, then select your file.
Note: iBooks assigns a chapter per file; if you’re importing something with multiple sections and you want each one to be separate, you’ll have to break them manually. I rarely bother with this; the iBooks version of the document is only for my use and doesn’t need to be perfectly navigable to anyone else.
If you’d prefer not to export your work to an iBooks file, you can simply preview it on the iPad.
- Connect your iPad to the computer.
- Open iBooks.
- Select Preview in the toolbar.
- Select your device, then hit enter.
Your file should open automatically.
To Export – without publishing
For editing work, you want to export your file, not publish it. Do not hit “publish” in the tool bar.
- Go to File > Export.
- Select your file type (iBooks, though you can also export to text or PDF).
- Hit next.
- Enter your file name and save.
To sync the file to your iPad, you can drop it into iTunes, and it will be added to the books section of your syncing menu.
If you’ve read any Greek mythology, you know how it stays with you. The stories are everywhere in pop culture, the trappings apparent in everything–words, common metaphors, even fashion. I devoured Greek mythology–along with Roman, Norse, Egyptian, Chinese, and Japanese mythologies–as a child, then later, as a teen. Sometime in my early twenties, it fell by the wayside; I started reading less mythology and more analysis thereof. But the stories themselves remained with me, because mythology has a habit of doing that. It sneaks up on you at the most unexpected moment and whispers things like “Yes, that is a totally Oedipal subplot in the novel you’re reading, but I’ll bet no one actually ends up blind,” or “Hey girl, see how you’re jealous of your two best friends because they’re talking to that guy? That’s so Ill(iad) of you!”
And sometimes, when you’re stuck in a no sleep rut, lying in the dark save for your kid’s Twilight Turtle, with a too-amped-up to sleep kid, Mythology will come to the rescue. Sure, you could pick up an illustrated D’Aulaire’s and read it before bed. But there’s something about telling myths, about sharing oral stories, that’s well-suited to the dark. And once you get past explaining the concept of gods and goddesses, the stories themselves are easy to tell–and rather enthralling, even for the least attentive of kids.
Mythology and Your Toddler: How to Get Started
Not all myths are kid appropriate. Aside from the obvious themes–chasing down unwilling women/nymphs, for example–some stories, like Echo & Narcissus, are too slow moving for small attention spans. But stories about things kids are used to, like the moon, the stars, and the sun, are always a hit. So are action stories, like the labors of Heracles and Thesus & the Minotaur (just gloss over the whole punishment, lying with a bull part). Most myths are easily shortened, or broken into sections, too, so you’re not recounting hours’ worth of lineage to a bored toddler in the dark.
Much like fairy tales, many stories contain something frightening–the Nemean Lion or Lernaean Hydra in the labors of Heracles, for instance. And that’s okay–with a little reassurance, these monsters or frightening aspects are a safe way to explore the dark, with Mummy or Daddy or both, nearby.
Explaining the concept of gods and goddesses, on the other hand, can be difficult. Given that most kids are comfortable with magic, though, it’s actually fairly easy to give them a reasonable explanation of the pantheon. Here’s my go to:
A long, long time ago, the Greek people believed in gods and goddesses. Gods and goddesses were like magic men and women, or magic boys and girls, who could make the rain and thunder and lightning come, or make magic hammers. Some of them helped animals, and others helped people. And because they were so strong and powerful, the Greeks would ask them for help–help growing their food, or fighting off something bad, or help getting better when they were sick.
That’s the short version. Depending on the story, we explore which god or goddess is involved a little more; in the labors of Heracles, Athena, Artemis, and Apollo show up in a couple of the feats, so Mir knows a bit more about them. And he knows that Hera was mean, and made Heracles crazy so that he did something very bad. And therein lies the trick–using easier words, and simplifying the stories. As a writer, I often want to explore backstory and think about why, when, and how. But Mir, and other small children, don’t always need that. Their attention spans are short, and they can only handle one, possibly two, big ideas in a story at a time. Which means there’s no reason to discuss Hera’s jealousy, or Zeus and Alcmenae, or anything other than the straight out labors when I’m telling him about Heracles.
How To Choose A Myth
- Start small. Tell a story that can easily be broken into parts, or one that takes less than ten minutes. (See the list of myths that work well below for ideas.)
- Skip unnecessary family histories. Heracles is the son of Zeus. Zeus’ wife Hera doesn’t like him because she’s mean. That’s enough to start with.
- Start with action stories, where the hero or heroine has to go on a quest (which can be shortened if necessary), or fight something.
- Look for myths that tie into the natural world, or something your toddler is particularly interested in (in our case, the stars).
Taking Your Stories A Little Farther
One of the things I love about stories, and mythology in particular, is that they open up a discourse. It’s easy to explore an idea–just one, mind–behind a story during the telling. Last night, since I told Mir about Heracles and the Garden of Hesperides again (can you tell he loves Heracles? Come dark, it’s “Heracles, mummy! Heracles!”), we talked for a moment about how stories can change over time, or how can there can be more than one version of something. Why? Because I’ve read two versions of that story.
Similarly, when telling Mir a story about the natural world, we take a moment to talk about what stars are, and how they’re always there, even when we can’t see them (this is incredibly reassuring to the kidlet). Or how sometimes, people try to make history fit the story they know, even when it doesn’t always work. If you were talking about Theseus and the Minotaur, you could spend a moment or two on how Ariadne thinks about the problem of the maze; in Daedalus and Icarus, you could talk about the sun and the wax, or how Daedalus’ design is supposed to work.
Myths That Work Well
- All the labors of Heracles
- Theseus and the Minotaur
- Perseus and Andromeda
- The Pleaides
- Orion and the scorpion
- Parts of the Odyssey
- Parts of Jason and the Argonauts
- Kronos and Titans; how Zeus came to rule over the gods
- The story of Atalanta
Things To Remember
Jules talks books
Have you ever noticed how people living in TV Land rarely read? (Note that for the purposes of this post, I’m talking about reading books, as opposed to blogs, papers, and other short span media, and that I’m referring to fictive shows only.)
Take Cougartown1 for example: In this week’s episode, Jules (Courtney Cox) openly stated that she’s not really a reader.
And then there’s Glee2, and New Girl and House, Doctor Who and How I Met Your Mother. Again, no one reads.
Does anyone on TV read? Sometimes, fathers read newspapers and mothers read magazines. Very occasionally, someone on Gossip Girl reads a book (though mostly they just talk about writing them, in very unrealistic terms). Castle shows people reading, but generally only Castle’s book. In fact, the only show I can think of that has a few readers, and shows at least one person reading every other episode or so, is Star Trek: The Next Generation3. And it depicts a balance of e-reading and print reading.
If we consider television as a reasonable depiction of society (and I’ll admit, I’m not sure we can), it’s saddening to think that so few people read.
Some People Have Never Read A Book
According to a 2008 article in the BBC Online, some people claim to have never read a book. And,
40% of people admit to lying about having read certain books, according to a study published last year by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council. And half read the classics just because we think it makes us look more intelligent.
Would a run of TV episodes showing characters reading encourage more people to read? Could we treat reading as a product, and use books as product placement? Generally speaking, publishers can’t afford to drop enough cashola for a single title to appear on any given show; I don’t expect them to pay out to get folks reading, either. But statistics on high school reading are rather alarming. According to a 2009 report from the National High School Center (PDF):
- The percentage of high school seniors performing at or above the basic level in reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) decreased from 80% in 1992 to 73% in 2005 (NCES, 2007).
- Over the same period, the percentage of high school seniors performing at or above the proficient level decreased from 40% to 35% (NCES, 2007).
- About 70% of high school students need some form of remediation; the most common problem is that students cannot comprehend the words they read—not that they cannot read them (Biancarosa & Snow, 2004).
Reading product placement certainly isn’t a quick fix–it won’t remedy the dearth of teachers, the overpacked classrooms, or bridge the economic divide. But a study in Research in Social Stratification and Mobility suggests there is a strong correlation “between a child’s academic achievement and the number of books his or her parents own. It’s even more important than whether the parents went to college or hold white-collar jobs.”
Can Product Placement Effect Positive Change?
There’s evidence that product placement can effect change. A study in the Archive of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, researchers found,
…that depictions of smoking in movies are more psychologically powerful than cigarette advertisements and have a greater impact on children’s attitudes and behaviours regarding smoking. The research looked at 51 studies and found that media exposure to tobacco use increases the odds of youth taking up smoking almost threefold.
On television and in film, reading is so often relegated to the nerd and geek classes. It’s the province of the kids who don’t have, or can’t get, friends. If smoking–which is widely known to cause cancer, among other deleterious effects–gets a positive spin in the youth market from product placement (as do soft drinks and other junk foods), why shouldn’t reading?
SAG Members Already Support Reading
Is this whole idea founded on my own naievete and wishful thinking? Perhaps. Would it be difficult to get the television and film industry to start putting books in actors’ hands? Probably. But some actors are already actively promoting literacy–Storyline Online, an initiative of the Screen Actors’ Guild Foundation, children can watch SAG members read some of their favorite books aloud. As of this writing, the front page selections include: The Rainbow Fish, with Ernest Borgnine; Harry The Dirty Dog, with Betty White; To Be A Drum, with James Earl Jones; and Romeo & Drooliet, with Haylie Duff.
StoryLine Online, an initiative of the Screen Actors Guild, provides bedtime stories on demand to children around the world, 24/7
BookPALS (Performing Artists for Literacy in Schools), another SAG initiative, encourages reading by getting actors into schools. According to their website, BookPALS is,
one of the fastest growing literacy programs in the country. Our volunteer actors read aloud to children at public elementary schools, museums, hospitals, fairs, online and on the phone helping to introduce them to the wonderful world of reading and literacy.
If we pause to reflect a moment, it’s not surprising actors are interested in reading and books. After all, the film industry is inextricably linked to reading. Consider–of the top 10 films of 2010-2011, five were based on books; six if you count Iron Man 2.
- Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
- Alice in Wonderland
- The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
- Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows, Part 1
- The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1
In short: TV land people, please–pick up a book and get reading.
Can you think of any other shows with dedicated readers? How do you feel about reading as product placement?
1I know, it’s not rocket science. But the characters are mostly sweet, and they almost always have happy endings.
2Although I know it’s probably overkill, I try to watch teen shows and dramas because they’re an excellent way to keep up with the zeitgeist and channel age appropriate dialogue. That said, I do find myself paying more and more attention to my knitting of late…
3Yes, I am a nerd. I know a lot about Star Trek–probably far more than any one person not associated with the show should. But much of it is in the interests of research for my current project. That, and I like the first two series. (I’m iffy on the latter ones.)
taken at Drumlin Farm in Lincoln, Mass.
I have been treading on leaves all day until I am autumn tired…
They spoke to the fugitive in my heart as if it were leaf to leaf.
They tapped at my eyelids and touched my lips with an invitation to grief.
But it was no reason I had to go because they had to go.
Now up, my knee, to keep on top of another year of snow.
~ Robert Frost, The Leaf Treader
Robert Frost was my first American poet. The first time I read this poem, many years ago, it returned me to Lewis’ Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Perhaps a staggered re-reading of the pair, author and poet together, is in order.Read More
For those who didn’t catch it on GalleyCat or in The Guardian, a remarkable, new-slash-mixed-media artist has been leaving some rather stunning paper sculptures at libraries and other cultural institutions around Scotland.
The sculptures–usually addressed to the recipient’s Twitter account–are astonishing, tiny marvels of fantastic bookishness. It is particularly dorky, I know, but this one actually made me tear up a little.
There’s been a bit of discussion about who the artist is, with several folks suggesting Su Blackwell, though one commenter on the original post says it’s definitely not Blackwell’s work. Much as I’d like to know, though, I love that these gifts are anonymous tokens of bookish love. Hopefully, they’ll still be on display when I eventually get to visit the Scotland (my mum is from Glasgow, and yet I’ve never been…).
So far, gifts have been made to:
- the Scottish Poetry Library, @byleaveswelive (I love this handle)
- the National Library of Scotland, @natlibscot
- the Filmhouse (home of the Edinburgh international film festival), @filmhouse
- the Scottish Storytelling Centre, @scotstorycentre
- the Edinburgh international book festival, @edbookfest
- UNESCO Edinburgh City of Literature, @edencityoflit (my favorite)
- the Central Lending Library on George IV bridge, @Edinburgh_CC
See them all, with photos by Chrisdonia, here, then pass them on. Also, a few fun pics with the tree sculpture and Ian Rankin @ Anna-Not-Karenina’s post on the Edinburgh Book Festival.Read More