By Dan Moren
June 10, 2020 11:07 AM PT
Apple closes the book on iBooks Author
Note: This story has not been updated since 2020.
iBooks Author, Apple’s application for creating and publishing ebooks, wrote its last chapter on Wednesday. The company announced that the app will be discontinued for new users as of July 1, 2020.
iBooks Author came out back in a January 2012 Apple special event in New York City, which I actually attended. The app was announced in conjunction with a big push from Apple on publishing digital textbooks to the then iBookstore (now Apple Books); iBooks Author was specifically designed to help create those textbooks, with a focus on design for multitouch and interactivity.
However, iBooks Author was, at first, pretty limited: among other things, it could only export to either Apple’s own .ibooks format or to a PDF; it wasn’t until 2015 that the company added the ability to publish books in the standard ePub format, though the iBooks Author format itself was based on ePub. That update also saw the ability to, for the first time, create multi-touch books designed not just for the iPad, but also the iPhone, another long-awaited feature.
Unfortunately, Apple’s textbook initiative never quite took off the way the company had clearly hoped, and development on iBooks Author was always kind of slow. The last substantial update to the app came in September 2018, adding only minor stability and performance updates. (It also probably didn’t help that Apple found itself in hot water with the U.S. government over ebook price-fixing in the early 2010s.)
Over time, iBooks Author has had more competition from other sources, most notably from Apple itself. The company has in recent years added more and more publishing features to its free Pages word processor, allowing those looking to create ebooks the ability to both write and publish a book using the same app, rather than having to use separate tools. Third party apps like Scrivener and Vellum both provide deep ebook publishing features as well, as I detailed in my own ebook experiments earlier this year.
Thus, unsurprisingly, Apple’s announcement of iBooks Author’s end of life points users towards Pages as a substitute. While the app may not duplicate all of the features of iBooks Author, it seems as though Apple is committed to continuing to improve the publishing experience. For one thing, Apple says it will be offering an import feature in an upcoming update that will allow users to open and edit iBooks Author files.
iBooks Author will continue to function if you’ve already installed it; if you’ve downloaded it in the past, you can still get it from your purchase history in the Mac App Store. However, it seems as though it won’t necessarily be supported on versions of macOS past Catalina.
[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Mastodon at @email@example.com or reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. His latest novel, the supernatural detective story All Souls Lost, is out now.]
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