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.