Ebook or Electronic Book – An electronic version of a printed book; Ebooks hold massive potential for the education sector.
I work at a school where we deployed Apple MacBooks to over 1000 students. Almost 3 years later and students still seem to be carrying heavy bags full of additional text books.
Clearly we need to do more to achieve the ideal, paperless school environment. The transition however, has proven to be complicated and in most instances restrictive due to the multiple formats and sometimes Digital Rights Management (DRM).
Ebooks come in many different formats, the most popular being:
- PDF – Adobe’s own format – widely used across almost all platforms.
- AZW – The Amazon proprietary format.
- MOBI – most PDA’s and smart phones use this format.
- EPUB – Widely used by almost all formats apart from the Amazon Kindle.
- IBOOKs – Apple exclusive, new format.
At my school we use Apple technologies. Therefore the following formats are considerations:
At present the flexible format of choice is the Adobe PDF. Their format is fine, you can create beautiful page layouts, create complex forms and annotate and collaborate with sticky notes. The Adobe PDF starts to fall short though when you want to add media like audio or video. Your media will be encoded to Flash, rendering the document quite useless for iOS users.
The .ePub format
ePub seemed like a promising choice for a few years. However limitations started to reveal themselves. Ideal document layout was tricky to achieve. I experienced unusual playback of audio objects if you placed too much audio in one document. ePub is still going strong though, it is very flexible because many devices can render the file type.
The ‘iBooks textbooks’ format is by far the most visually appealing ebook. iBooks take full advantage of the iOS touch screen. The format has countless enhancements including picture slide shows, 3d object manipulation, video playback and interactive glossary to name just a few. After experiencing these books you will never go back. That is if you fully understand the commitment you are making….
As a teacher, school curriculum decision maker, or writing enthusiast which format should you use?
This is a decision which has so many variables only you will know the answer. With many factors to consider, I will share my opinion considering that I would like to achieve maximum accessibility for my colleagues who use a combination of Apple devices. It seems that depending on how media rich you would like your book, dictates the file type you should use.
Microsoft Word, Apple Pages and PDF
If you just need to communicate policies and letters to your students and parents, a quick Word or Pages document exported as a PDF is adequate. It is important that you export your final letter as a PDF. Distributing the actual .doc or .pages is a common mistake unless you require your recipients to further edit your letter. I often draw a comparison to an iMovie or Garageband project, when you’re finished creating you always export a final media file (like an MP3 or MP4 video). You would never actually share the project file itself with your audience, right? Remember this as you create your next word processing ‘project file’.
The exported PDF will beautifully display your pictures and words in a small file which can be opened by almost every computer and tablet device.
.ePubs for enhanced books
As soon as you want to add (or ‘embed’) media such as video or audio you will need to consider your audience and their devices. In my case Apple iPads, iPhones and Macs. The ePub format is extremely popular, it is however mainly consumed on mobile devices. So a few considerations:
It is easy to export to this format directly from Pages. Click here to read more about successful export to .ePub. There are many iOS apps which in my opinion are more stable and intuitive to use. Check out ‘Book Creator’ and ‘Creative Book Builder’.
Opening .ePubs on your computer
ePub books display beautifully on all Android and iOS devices. But it is not so simple for desktop or laptop computers. I would recommend you take a look at the following:
- Calibre - support for Mac, Linux and Windows
- FBReader - support for Mac and Windows, plus Android/iOS apps
- Adobe Digital Editions - support for Mac and Windows.
- Firefox EPUBReader Add-On - Expansion for the Firefox internet browser on Mac and Windows.
iBooks Author and the Apple exclusive .iBooks format
iBooks Author may initially seem like a restrictive choice to consume and create text because you are constrained to Apple technologies. However the format is amazing and it’s squarely aimed at the education sector. To assist cognitive learning there is no better tool. The student retains knowledge by listening, watching, reading, and touching information. This experience holds great promise. If you are in a community of iPad users you must investigate the iBooks textbooks further.
Some important considerations with iBooks:
- You can only read ‘enhanced’ iBooks from your iPad. By ‘enhanced’ iBooks I mean iBooks created using iBooks Author.
- You can only create iBooks on the latest Mac OS, Lion 10.7 or later.
- iBooks textbooks are perfect for creating interactive, media rich books.
- As a study aid there is no better format for illustrating facts in a meaningful way.
- You can distribute your book internally to your students and colleagues or you may choose to publish it to the iTunes Bookstore. It’s up to you if you want to charge.
Please download my ‘Getting started’ guide which supplements my ‘Ebooks and iBooks Author for education’ teacher training session.
Download “iBooks guide from iSupport Learning”