The following post is from John Marc Green, illustrator and author of Steampunk Chess Puzzles, available in the App Store this fall.
My experience with Demibooks Composer began just a few weeks after I purchased my iPad 2 in Spring 2011. Like many new iPad owners, I went a little “App-happy” after I began to discover the amazing variety of apps for productivity, entertainment, and education.
My 6-year-old son loves books, and we often share one together at bedtime. When I got the iPad 2, he was captivated by the interactive book apps we found. I was so enchanted, I wanted to see if there was a way to publish my own books on the platform. A quick internet search for interactive book-making software turned up a few names, including Demibooks Composer, then just beginning its beta testing phase.
Soon after being accepted as a beta tester, I first opened a beta version of Composer and found there was no manual, just a simple interface and a sample book. I dug in and began to explore, examining each page, the objects and animations used in the sample book, plowing through the behavior editor menus, and finally began to figure out how things were done. I made some early mistakes, but the beta team was quick to respond to my questions and helped me figure out where I had gone wrong, and pretty soon I was discovering and reporting bugs and glitches. What surprised and delighted me was that the beta team was actively seeking input for new features to add to Composer as the development process continued. One of my suggestions is now a feature in the software that I find very helpful: the adjustable grid overlay, which helps me visually arrange objects before fine-tuning their position in the inspector menu.
For my first book’s theme, I chose the fiction genre that best fits my vision for a simulated “mechanical” book: “Steampunk,” which re-imagines the Victorian and Edwardian periods as H.G. Wells and Jules Verne saw it, complete with steam-powered airships, clockwork automatons, and mechanical Rube Goldberg devices everywhere. Composer’s support for sound files and simple programming behaviors for objects meant that I could create “virtual machines” on the pages of my iPad 2 books that would delight and challenge the user. I began building a Steampunk Chess Puzzle book.
I can only describe the process of building an interactive book on the iPad as “making magic.” When you take static art objects and watch them moving, bouncing, and appearing on the iPad screen, it’s really amazing. Turning the page of a book into a toy with unlimited replay value is sheer wonder, and I am excited to think that I could build something that will create the kind of childhood memories for future readers as I have with some of my old books. I look forward to seeing all the wonderful creations future interactive book authors will make with this software.