18 advanced iBooks Author tips


Last year I started working with iBooks Author and made my first iBook to use in class. A year later, I now have about 8 iBooks under my belt. At the Apple Distinguished Educator Institute 2013 in Cork I was lucky enough to spend two times a whole hour with people from the Duarte team (the people behind some great iBook Author Text Books and The Inconvenient Truth Slideshow). Below I will share some tips and tricks that have helped me through the writing and designing process.

1. Use the space wisely. This is not a paper book. Think about where you want your student’s focus to go and design the page accordingly. It doesn’t matter if you only have 5 words on one page. It does not make the book heavier. Less is more here. The design should add to the purpose and should make the text easier to understand or exercises easier to do.

tap on me

2. Point towards your hidden information. Images that have pop ups look great but student’s won’t know that there is extra information if you don’t tell them. Give them instructions and draw an arrow with the text “tap on me”.  Create a consistent rule for hidden information. For example give interactives a certain type of stroke around the images. Another way is to add a little “How to use this multitouch Book” section.

3. Use vector icons. Find a set of icons that not only look good but also give student’s insight into what they need to do for each exercises. Reuse these so that student’s become used to them and recognise the different types of activites. The noun project has the biggest collection of vector images for a tiny fee. FreeDesignStock also has a bunch of good ones for free.

vector images

4. Get tips from the professionals in the iBooks Store. I advice Resonate by Nancy Duarte, Facts are Sacred by Simon Rogers and the Tour guides by DK publishing. Look at how they use pop up images, lay out their pages and most interestingly the way they make interactive widgets from Keynote presentations.

5. Have multiple inspector windows. This unknown trick caused a massive “ooooooh” in a room full of Apple geeks at the ADE Institute. Press “alt” + click on one of the icons in the inspector window to have two inspector windows open side by side. This saves a lot of time switching from window to window. This trick also works in Pages and Keynote.

6.” Alt + cmd + c” & “Alt + cmd + v”. This is another one of those tips that works with Pages and Keynote as well. Instead of changing the font, stroke, colour, style etc of an item each time you use it, you can copy and paste all of it’s style features at once. This saves you a lot time and tedious clicks.

Screen Shot 2013-10-12 at 10.47.57 PM

7. Be creative with fonts. Mix it up a little. Design does matter, especially when it can add to the meaning of the book. One of the books I made is about the Amsterdams School Architecture. This particular style also had it’s own font that I have now used for all the Chapter Titles. Font Squirrel has a wealth of free fonts to use.


Screen Shot 2013-10-12 at 10.28.38 PM

8. Change the templates. On the left of your screen. Drag down the two small lines above your chapters. This will reveal the template. Making changes in here will change your whole iBook automatically and saves you a lot of time manually adjusting things. “alt + cmd + l” will unlock elements that are locked into place so that you can delete or change them.

9. Make it personal. Add your own voice recordings, videos and pictures. Students love knowing that their own teacher made this book and that a lot of love went into it. Personalise your book by giving it your personal touch. You can add a video of yourself in the intro media explaining what the students are going to learn or use photo’s that you have taken yourself. A benefit of using your own materials is that you own the rights to them.

10. Use copyright free images. If you want to go on and publish your book in the iBooks Store or in an iTunes U course you need to consider the copyright of your materials. An easy way of finding copyright free images is to use the wikimedia commons site. You can also use Google Advanced Search and filter the image usage rights. Or better yet as mentioned in point 9; use your own media.

Screen Shot 2013-10-13 at 12.23.59 AM

11. Stick to a colour pallete. Chose three colours that you want to use and stick to them. Use colour sparingly as emphasis, don’t go mad and think it will look fun to have loads of different colours. In my Descriptive Writing iBook I took three colours from my cover image using the magnifying glass tool. I then dragged these colours below the pallete to save them for later use.

12. Customise your toolbar. Go to “view” -> “Customise Toolbar” and add the tools that you use the most and delete the ones you don’t use. The one that I added immediately is the “alpha” tool.

13. Use the Alpha tool. There is little that will annoy me more than an image with a white background on a coloured canvas background. You can use the alpha tool to make the background colour transparent. This looks especially well with text wrapped around the image. Your image will instantly look a lot more professional.

14. Make interactive widgets with Keynote. Keynote is highly underappreciated as a design tool. A Keynote is a widget. A Keynote with hyperlinks is an interactive widget that students can navigate through freely. Makes use of this. Again you can learn from the masters by checking out Duarte’s portfolio all of these presentations were made using Keynote.

15. Create even more awesome interactive widgets with Tumult Hype and iAd Producer. Last year I used Tumult Hype to build an interactive diagram for my descriptive writing iBook. The program is quite easy to use once you get the hang of it. If you are an Apple Developer you can download iAd producer for free. With this you can build beautiful interactive HTML5 widgets without knowing code.

16. Bookry and Bookwidgets. Two awesome websites that enable teachers to add loads of interactivity to their iBooks. Try them all. From crosswords, to quizes and youtube embeds.

17. Learningapps.org I learned about this site from a colleague at the iTunes U Bootcamp last week. It’s a great website that enables teachers to easily make language games and quizes that can be either webbased or saved as an iBooks Author widget. You can make your own or browse the modules that other teachers have already made.

18. Publish and share. Let us enjoy and learn from your books as well. Publish your iBook in the iBook Store or add it to your iTunes U course.


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11 comments on “18 advanced iBooks Author tips
  1. Luis Perez says:

    One more: make your books accessible for all by adding accessibility descriptions for all images and widgets.

  2. Great post (and thanks for the mention!).

  3. Julie Willcott says:

    These are great tips. I have begun to write lab manuals for my students in iBA. I have incorporated some widgets, but am ready to step things up. I also share in your admiration of Duarte’s work. ADE, North America, Class of 2013.

  4. adilaura2012 says:

    Suzanne this is a wonderful article. Thank you for sharing!

  5. Rob says:

    Awesome article. Have you considered an ibook that incorporates this information and more on. Your process of creating iBooks in ibook author?

  6. Ben says:

    Great article !

  7. Kumara Ward says:

    Hi and thank you for the information above. I want to make it possible for my picture ibook (they have small paragraphs of text on each page) readers to select from two languages. Which ever they select (say through an icon or radio button) the text in the relevant language would show on the page. Is this possible?

  8. Cindy says:

    If anyone is looking for a good looking free template to play around with this site is giving away a cookbook template http://www.premiumibookstemplates.com/templates/category/Free

  9. David Hill says:

    Why not Bookry?

  10. Thea O'Connor says:

    Thanks for your article. Can you also tell me how to insert text books that students can then write in? Thanks

  11. Nathalie says:

    Bookry is amazing!

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