Apple burning another bridge*—iBooks Author is discontinued

#Apple invented the #iBooks book-format with specific page layout features, interactive content and buttons for text fields etc. In short a kind of combination of #Keynote and #Pages with widgets that could animate and enhance the attention of the reader/student. It was really a joy for educational content.

About two months ago Apple emailed book creators, that iBooks Author would be discontinued and not be available for #macOS 11 Big Sur, and it would be transitioned to Pages.

I have imported one of my books to Pages, and first it warns me that some features are not available—yet. I cannot find any documentation about if some of the omitted features will later be implemented in Pages, so I do not know if I should import my book later to get more features included.

Well, but what was imported?

Well, the hierarchy of the book is gone, now it’s all single pages. The layout looks right, but gone is all chapters and sections, so the structure is gone! Widgets, pop-overs, scrolling sidebars, interactive images, and Keynote imports is gone! For books that has built their explanation around these pedagogical features, the book is destroyed, and these elements probably have to be converted to movies. I really hope Apple will do something to keep these capabilities as part of the flow, but maybe it’s impossible in ePub, which now seems like the only distribution method (apart from PDF).

Why is Apple doing this?

I understand what Apple wants (I guess), and the limitations of the layout based iBooks format. The iBooks format could only scale up/down according to screen size. It’s not hard to see why Apple would like a better look at a bigger screen, and the flexibility of scaling content when running in split screen or when other windows are in front. And support for the dark theme is not possible with a fixed layout. And maybe the use for all of these features were simply too small.

The primary format for books will now be ePub, and it can be created either as a text flow (like in a novel), or with a fixed layout (like in a cook book or photo book). Pages can create these and has a variety of templates. So can lots of other apps, including integration to publishing systems.

Innovation discontinued

It reminds me of the time when the innovative HyperCard was discontinued with no replacement, when Final Cut Studio was killed with no replacement, and when ClarisWorks was discontinued and a lot of documents was suddenly not readable (or needed to be translated to another format, loosing all formatting). It doesn’t look to me like innovation prevailed this time, as it looks like Apple is closing it’s iBooks-format down completely. 

Be prepared for the time when Apple discontinue the reader for this format.

This article is a bit critical, but I actually feels more sad. I really saw the iBooks format as a unique way of producing books and educational content, and now it’s just dead, with no real replacement options.

References

Page about importing to Pages: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT211135 

Page about transitioning from iBooks Author to Pages: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT211136 

Apple site to authors: https://authors.apple.com

*) The burning of bridges is a relation to a quote from Steve Jobs that said that in order for backward compatibility not to hinder innovation, it would be necessary to burn som bridges once in a while.