eBook Review: iBooks Publishing

It’s time for another Textbook Guru eBook review, but as promised in my last article, this time we’re changing it up and reviewing the flip side of eBooks, publishing. Today we are taking a look at the iBooks platform from the perspective of a self publishing author. If you’d like to read up on the iBooks platform from the user end, take a quick look at our iBooks review here.

Before I get into the iBooks publishing process, I must note that there are a wealth of guides available that have more specific detail than I’ll be able to provide here. I should also mention that a large portion of these guides describe what seems to be the ‘PC’ version of epublishing. To publish in iBooks you need the ‘Mac’ version. I started down the PC route, using a third party site called Lulu to prep my article as a .epup file. This is the file format that many eReaders, including Kindle and Nook accept. iBooks prefers the proprietary .ibooks file format, which can only be created using the iBooks Author program.

So, after scrapping my .epub file, I started fresh with iBooks Author, which I found to be simpler to use than the Lulu platform, although the steps were largely the same. For starters, if your book has chapters, you must insert chapter breaks that iBooks can recognize or risk having your book rejected during the uploading process. From what I’ve read, this is a step that a lot of authors stumble on and end up getting their books rejected.

Rather than simply publishing your text like a pdf, you can also take advantage of the versatility of eBooks by adding interactive features like video, clickable links to the web and sliding photo galleries. I took advantage of an iBooks option called ‘media introduction’ which allows you to embed a video that will play before the reader gets to the cover. This is great for introducing your book with a little added context or a personal message from the author.

As soon as you have your formatted .ibooks file, you are ready to begin the publishing process. To publish to iBooks you need to create an iTunes Connect account and download iTunes Producer, Apple’s distribution software. Through iTunes Producer you can upload your book to sell or for free, and manage the back end of your book selling career with analytic tools.

When you’ve created your account and loaded iTunes Producer, you will go through a lengthy but thorough uploading process, similar to the one you went through to prep the file. You will be asked all the pertinent questions such as Author name, what categories iBooks should file your book under and an ISBN if you have one. This is also the stage in which you will actually upload your .ibooks file and your custom cover image.

iBooks is very picky and it’s likely you’re upload will have several errors to fix before it is complete. I had to go back and change information about my upload 5 times before I was able to finish the upload successfully. After uploaded your book will enter an approval process with Apple before it will actually start showing in searches within the iBooks store or on iTunes.

If everything goes smoothly, the upload process will take about an hour from word doc to .ibooks to publishing, however I did several hours of research and fighting technical problems with installing iTunes Producer). For something as simple as the free article I uploaded, the publishing process seems lengthy, but actually it’s just very thorough, which is important both to you and Apple (legally) if you intend to sell your book. Frankly, if I were publishing a book I intended to profit from, this process is extremely easy and quick compared to the traditional route of pitching to publishing companies.

However, after your ebook has been uploaded, it still needs to pass Apple’s approval process. Unfortunately my ebook file was rejected for ‘insufficient length or functionality.’ After following up with iBooks support, I was encouraged to ‘review your book concept and evaluate whether you can incorporate functionality, content, or both to enhance the user experience.” As you may have guessed, the problem for me here is that my article isn’t going to get any longer and it seems the video introduction, image sliders and live links I incorporated did not provide enough ‘functionality.’

Unsatisfied with this answer, I pressed iBooks support for more details, including what the minimum length or functionality is that I am falling short of. Unfortunately their support team was unhelpful, stating that they do not have a ‘published requirement regarding the minimum length of functionality of a book’ yet still asking me to review my book concept for length and functionality and resubmit. I had hoped that having a real human review my book would show them that my book has all the length and functionality it needs to serve it’s purpose, which is to show how easy it is to publish on iBooks.

So, rather than linking to iTunes for you all to download my free eBook, I can only offer you a PDF version of what it would have looked like in iBooks. I believe it was more the length than the functionality of my ebook that caused me trouble. Since it is not very likely that a self publishing author would bother to write a book as short as my article, I imagine other authors will have an easier time passing Apple’s approval process.

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