August 16, 2015
Bradley Metrock, CEO, Score Publishing
James Rice is an interesting man: part educational innovator, part digital publishing visionary, and part YouTube star.
Educators often blur the lines between technologists, entrepreneurs, and prophets, and James Rice is one of the best examples of this 21st-century reality that we've found. How he has used iBooks Author to create the "Study It" platform is remarkable.
James presents great perspective on the evolution iBooks Author has undertaken to arrive where it is today. All of us who have used iBooks Author for any period of time have experienced some of these issues, as the software has begun to emerge as an essential content creation tool.
Check out his story and his take on iBooks Author below, and check out the Study It line of digital textbooks as well - they are excellent.
James, tell us what you do with your school as well as your publishing efforts.
I am the creator of Study It books - the first ever English as a Second Language digital textbook series using iBooks Author. We have created over 40 iBooks different digital textbooks using iBooks Author to help students and teachers. Please visit www.studyitbooks.com for more information.
Study It is also the first book created with iBooks Author to ever win a Digital Book Award at the Digital Book World Conference held in New York City every year. You can see more information about us “In the News” here.
We encourage other iBooks Author content creator to submit their books to this conference. It is one of the largest publishing conferences in the world with many large publishing houses in attendance. Surprisingly, many people were shocked with what we had created.
I am also the Director of Connect School of Languages - an English as a Second Language school in downtown Toronto. We are a 100% digital school that began the digital transformation in 2012. We are now totally paperless. We use a BYOD system. It has transformed how students learn and teachers teach. It is quite amazing to witness. You can visit our website at www.connectlanguage.com.
How did you initially discover iBooks Author as a content creation tool?
We had been following Apple for some time as we had been experimenting with iPads in the classroom. In the January 2012 Keynote when Eddy Cue announced the launch of the iBooks Author software we were flabbergasted. It was exactly what was needed. While we had been experimenting with the iPad for a while, there just was no reason to use it. There were some cool apps and it made using YouTube easy to use but there was no content.
After that [event] and launch, we got to work creating. It took two and a half years to create the Study It series.
What do you like best about iBooks Author?
The collaboration and sharing. Writing can often be a lonely experience. But creating an multi-touch book with iBooks Author is akin to making a movie. At our peak, we had 7 or 8 different people working on different elements of the books - videos, audio, widgets, editing, design - it was so much fun. We could try and test everyone’s idea.
What area(s) do you think need to be addressed by Apple most, in order to continue to improve iBooks Author as a tool?
One of the biggest things we hate is when a book is rejected by Apple because of a coding issue that is not clear. Apple has improved in the customer service area but it was really tough at the beginning. We encourage new authors to contact Apple immediately and directly to find the issue. The service reps have improved. But at the beginning, some of their people had no idea what we were talking about!
More specifically, Preview might be our biggest frustration. Sometimes the Preview doesn’t match with the iBooks Author file. For example, if we create an HTML widget - it works fine on Preview but after we upload it, suddenly the widget doesn’t work. Or we can’t watch Keynotes in iBooks Author but Preview is ok. That seems strange. We see a lot of small bugs in our widgets that did not appear in Preview.
Also, we need a better synergy between future widget makers and Apple. We have solved many of our technical problems but finding the solutions was very labor intensive. Especially related to audio. In some cases, audio works on an iPad but not the PC. New creators will find it frustrating and because it is a third-party widget maker or they make it themselves, Apple does not offer the same level of support. The iBooks Author conference is a great idea for widget makers to share.
Lastly, we need the iBookstore to appear in more countries! Especially China.
You've created a few books now with iBooks Author. Which one did you enjoy putting together the most, and why?
There is no one book that we enjoyed more than another. But if I had to pick one it would be our Listening series. It was crazy fun. And it was our first. We enjoy the collaboration aspect that iBooks Author gives us. New ideas are always flying around and it is very easy for us to add those ideas to our books.