We were pleased to be included in Peter Meyers’ review of digital publishing tools last week on the O’Reilly TOC webcast hosted by Joe Wikert. Peter gave a quick overview of Demibooks™ Composer, our authoring tool that lets you create your own interactive book apps right on the iPad. Through this post and others to come, we’ll shed more light on how our authoring tool and publishing process works.
Peter grouped the various tools in five different categories:
• Mainly text, limited images
• Simple picture books
• Picture books + motion
• Rich page layout
• Complete customization
Demibooks Composer was placed in the “Picture books + motion” category. You can argue about these categorizations and other tools that may have been omitted, but it’s a good start to make sense of the platforms coming to market this year.
Let’s begin walking through the authoring side of Composer at a high level using the help of several books in progress in our private Beta. Part of what has made this journey so enjoyable for the Demibooks team has been the great individuals we’ve come to know during the course of the Beta. You’ll get a chance to hear from some of them directly but for now all I can say is we couldn’t have gotten to this point without them.
Composer has three main modes: Library, Workbench and Preview. In Library view, you can view the books you have in progress, as well as any others someone else has shared with you. Books are saved as a single .DCB file, and can be exported and imported via Dropbox, the free to use web storage service. Prior to publishing to Apple, there’s more work to be done on the .DCB files, but that’s handled by our publishing service and we’ll address that in a future post.
The Workbench lays out the book in either portrait or landscape mode. Pages can be added, rearranged and deleted via the page thumbnails at the bottom of the Workbench. To start a new book, you begin adding images that have been created in tools such as Photoshop and copied to Composer using iTunes. You will also be able to add photos, text, basic animations and sounds to your composition.
Each type of object has a rich set of properties that can be edited via the Inspector. You can do basic edits and arrangements with an object such as the foliage in which Anna Hines may have hidden a bear in her upcoming Not Without Bear (sorry for being a spoiler!). Basic movements such as rotations and changing positions are easy to do.
We also provide a rich set of functions with which you can manipulate your images, animations, sounds, etc. These are accessed via the Effects Editor, which also allows you to set up Audio and enter the fun world of physics! More on that later!
The best thing about having a platform right on the iPad is previewing your book application anytime you want to. You see the pages and interact with the book in this “test” mode, just as your readers will when they read your book app. No waiting for the software team to finish coding something before you can see it. In fact, there’s no coding – Composer does it all for you. And you see it when you want to by selecting Preview.
Book Details is the place to go whenever you want to set global settings such as what page turns you want. It’s also where you select final details required for listing your book on the App Store. There are a few more steps to getting your book published, but in the meantime you can share it with anyone else who also has Composer.
We’ll share more details and insight from our Beta users as we go along. We hope to release Composer this summer. Let us know your questions, and sign up for our mailing list so we can keep you informed on release dates.