Home » Apple, Ebooks » iBook Author templates: sameness of eBook templates limits their usefulness

iBook Author templates: sameness of eBook templates limits their usefulness

26 January 2016

From Talking New Media:

The Apple eBook publishing platform iBooks Author has had its critics since its first launch, but it has also its fans. Those who work with the platform like it for the same reasons many like working with other Apple apps: it is easy to learn and consistent with other Apple programs such as Pages.

. . . .

While iBA may be easy to work with, creating a truly stunning eBook for the iPad and Mac is still a matter of the publisher’s design skills. Many of the early eBooks released looked very much like the early templates Apple supplied with the program itself. To help novice designers out, a few developers launched template apps for iBA – some free, some costing $9.99 or more.

. . . .

Are these template programs worth buying? It really all depends on your skill level as a designer, and how comfortable one feels customizing a template. The real value of these apps is for getting ideas that you can apply yourself, rather than finding a perfect template that requires no customization.

There are a couple of free template apps, which you might want to check out first before paying for others.

Templates for iBooks Author Free was just updated this month, adding 30 new templates. But all the themes here are in portrait, and a link inside the program takes you to Themes for iBooks Author, which was also recently updated, but costs $19.99, the most expensive add-on out there.

Another, Designs for iBooks Author, has not been updated since 2013.

. . . .

One thing one notices right away is that the artwork in these templates is often gorgeous – far better than the artwork many novice designers end up using. So once one deletes the placeholder graphic with the one that will be used the look of the eBook suddenly declines. The lesson is obvious: make sure you have good, high resolution artwork.

. . . .

But when examining these template apps one sees a sameness to the templates. These apps, it appears, are all designed by one hand, rather than multiple designers. That means the variation between themes is minimal, a good reason to make sure you look at all the template apps and their screenshots rather than just one or two.

In the end, the two most important things about working with iBooks Author is feeling comfortable customizing templates yourself, and stealing borrowing ideas.

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Apple, Ebooks

11 Comments to “iBook Author templates: sameness of eBook templates limits their usefulness”

  1. “iBook Author templates: sameness of eBook templates limits their usefulness”

    Considering readers are usually more interested in ‘reading the story’ rather than how it’s been formatted, any template that ‘doesn’t’ get in the way of that reading is a good template …

    • My thought too. I want readable text that doesn’t break when I enlarge it for my old eyes, that usually means left justified, clear paragraphs and chapter headings. Everything else is in the way, at least for fiction. Simple easy to read free flowing text is all a good story needs. IMO.

  2. As long as the talk is about templates and formatting for ebooks, I have a few questions to lay before the well-read habitues of TPV.

    1. Do you prefer to read ragged-right or justified?

    2. 0.5 indent or 0.3? Or other?

    3. What is your preferred font?

    Thank you.

    • 1: don’t really care, but hate when justified tries to mash things together or stretch a few words to fill a whole line.

      2: Either seems fine to me (in other words — what do I know? 😉 )

      3: Times New Roman to be honest. Enough so that I’ll take things that are in some of the other fonts and convert them.

    • 1. I usually try to justify, so long as it doesn’t mean artificially s t r e t c h i n g the words in the sentence.

      2. I don’t think I mind. The rule with print is that the indent should be based on the leading, e.g. if your leading is 12 points your indent is 12 points. I just say it has to be noticeable enough for me to know you’re starting a new paragraph, and to break up the wall of text.

      3. I have always been fond of Goudy Old Style. Or Goudy Catalogue if a medium weight is required. But if you’re referring to just the fonts that come with device (Android phone or Kindle or iPad etc), I generally go for the serif fonts. Bookman, Georgia, Bookerly, etc.

    • Interesting questions.
      1. I like justified text if it isn’t too stretched. In print, I almost insist on it.

      2. I use an indent of 0.33, though I have used 0.5 when I want a whole paragraph offset; making those different is non-standard, but offset doesn’t stand out as much (especially on eReaders) at less than 0.5.

      3. I printed up a test sheet, which included a lot of common fonts (Garamond, TNR, Georgia, Baskerville, Lucida Bright) and a lot of free-for-commercial-use (and therefore uncommon) fonts (Merriweather, Berylium, Alegreya, Vollkorn). Conducted a small blind survey (they saw the fonts, but not the names) among friends, family, and anyone else I could think of (waitresses at my local sushi restaurant! Heh). By wide margin, Alegreya came out on top. So, for print, I use Alegreya.
      For eBooks, outside of title fonts, I leave it to whatever is default (unless, in theory, I need a monospace font; such a situation has yet to come up, however). People like to adjust the settings on their eReaders, which usually overrides any font choice you make for your eBook.

      • You just sent me on a cruise for the Vollkorn font. (Love it!)

        (I have to admit that as a German, I’m a fan of Vollkorn bread and found all the puns irresistable.)

      • I love Alegreya, but it was monstrously expensive when I went looking for it a few years ago. Now I see that it’s a Google font … I may put this in my stable after all. I agree it’s the best of the possible options you had.

  3. I’ve always read that fancy formatting for ebook interiors was a waste of time, since readers were only going to switch fonts and resize to suit themselves.

  4. Publishing on iBooks requires a program that must be downloaded, is a laborious process, must be done on a specific machine, and has errors that are difficult to decipher. That’s so 1990s, Apple.

    Swallow your pride or delusion that a few thousand authors will switch to Macs and put your publishing platform online like everyone else and iBooks will grow exponentially.

    • I won’t believe Apple is serious about ebooks until they make a way for you to upload without a Mac. Until then, they’re an also-ran.

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