While the tools to create ePubs have existed in the professional graphic design space for some time, it is only until recently that there arrived a much simpler way to create your own eBooks. In this post we will lay out two options, one for creating enhanced ePubs and the other for fixed layout aka picture books.
Sure you can use InDesign or Quark to create ePubs, but not many people have access and know how to use those software programs. Easy ePub creation is not only good for authors who want to self publish, it's also great for kids. From our experience students are ecstatic to share the eBooks they create and they love the process of creating them so much it encourages them to write more. Anything that builds literacy and a love of reading is always going to be a win in our book, and when it involves tech, so much the better.
For creating enhanced ePubs, the kind that the iPad just loves to gobble up in the best way, Pages ($19.99) is by far the easiest tool. We have used Pages on the Mac with children as young as 7 to create their own enhanced (with video) eBooks. The children created the illustrations for the books on the iPad, shot the video in Photobooth on the Mac, and composed the story with video and still elements in Pages on the Mac (Pages on the iPad does not support ePub export).
The best way to get started using Pages to create ePubs is to download the sample guide by Apple. View this sample and use it as a template to create your own books. Important things to remember are that all images with the exception of the cover must be "Inline," as "Floating" graphics are not supported for ePub export. Because ePubs flow depending on the size of the screen they are being read on, it's a good idea to give a few spaces before and after each graphic element.
If you are creating a text heavy book that is not image intensive, Pages is the way to go simple solution wise. Creating the eBook is easy and is much like creating any text document as long as you obey the style guidelines set by Apple. If you do not follow these style guidelines, your book will not look at all like you expected it to and the process can be frustrating.
By far the easiest solution we've found for creating eBook picture books (aka fixed layout ePubs) is the Book Creator app ($6.99) by Red Jumper Studio. This iPad app (Android is currently in development) allows you to quickly and easily create your own ePubs that can be emailed, sent to a file app on your device like Dropbox or sent to iBooks.
The beauty of this app is in its simplicity and how well it utilizes the iPad as a creation device. With this app taking over the ePub composition role, you can now use your iPad to illustrate (I used the free SketchBook Express app for the illustrations in this example), write, compose, and distribute your eBook. This app is already being used by teachers with elementary aged students in many schools because it is so user friendly.
While this app does not currently do everything we want in a fixed layout ePub creation tool, future plans for the app include adding enhanced content as well as landscape book orientation. After looking for some time for a picture book creation tool that was easy enough for a beginning reader to create their own books, yet powerful enough for a non design software savvy adult to self publish, we think this is hands down the best solution out there.
What tools do you use to create your own eBooks? Have your children created their own eBooks?
(Images: Joelle Alcaidinho who will one day publish the story of Gus)