Creating iBooks & ePubs

iBooks and ePublications have grown massively popular in the past number of years. With businesses such as Amazon Kindle and Apple Store giving readers immediate access to new releases, older no longer in print publications its easy to see why. Smart phone & tabletThose interested in reading in digital formats will in most instances have a tablet, smart phone or device which they use daily. By creating a format to have their chosen reading material to hand, digital reading has become the norm. No one wants to lug about huge hardback versions of the book or novel that they are currently reading on the train to work, Why would they?, when they have a small, light,  hand held device which serves so many purposes other than as a book.

The growth of the digital platform for reading materials has open even more areas for businesses to gain information on their customers. Businesses can now track their customers areas of literary interest and suggest similar materials for them to purchase. While this may form part of an echo chamber where readers will only stay within their interests, it may also expose those less likely to browse other areas to other reading materials. This ‘suggestion’ model gives the business huge insight into their reader, and if they also sell other items online other than digital reading materials, then it is likely that they will build a user profile based on the materials searched and begin to target the user with ads based on the system algorithms.

It may not all be so dark and murky though, these online platform have developed into a virtual coffee shop where virtual book clubs can engage, comment share and review digital books.

MiseryIt also gives the authors a place to interact with their readers and take the feedback being collected in the forums and comments being left. Digital readers have easy, immediate access to their peers and authors, which may not have been previously available.

Digital reading has its faults, but also has its be wins.  I am a huge fan of printed books, I love the tactile nature of older books, their smell, the aged tears and folds of the paper, and the ability to feel the imprint that the ink has made on the paper when I run my hand over it. I am also a big fan of the planet, so I appreciate that the digital conversion of printed materials can only lead to less paper being needed and less trees being cut down. So while i like older book nostalgia, I am more enamoured with the idea that we are slowly moving towards a greener planet.Digital Saves Trees

Digital reading hasn’t been embraced fully by all cultures. This article ‘The beautiful Icelandic tradition of giving books on Christmas eve’ by Steven Bissonette talks about the romanticism of gift giving and the idea that a book, a physical book is something to be treasured. The Icelandic people (where 1 in 10 people are published authors) maintain the tradition of book giving to be read on Christmas eve,

My Digital Books-  ePub & iBook

I had previously worked for Apple and as part of a project, I developed an Apple Camp Program where younger children  (aged 6 to 12) would come to the Apple Campus and create iBooks based on their own stories and drawings. The idea was simple, the children wrote their story, then created drawings to depict scenes. They used a simple drawing application and then once this was complete, they used iBooks Author to create their interactive books. The application allowed then to add sound effect, moving imagery and allowed the user to engage with the piece.  What most interested me with this project was the ease with which the young children grasped the concept and ran with it. They had no fear of making mistakes, they knew their stories and therefore could apply the material to the book without concern or approval.

Now as a secondary school Art teacher, I have my older student create iBooks and ePubs ( as well as powerpoint presentations) as part of  their art history curriculum. These tasks not only give the student a place to store their learning but it also gives them technical skills and exposure to new digital applications. The learning begins with them having to research the materials that they will use, then figuring out how the applications work, adding the materials and fine tuning it to their own styles, then presenting the material to their classmates. It gives them an understanding of the material which they can show through peer teaching.

My own iBook  and ePub I have kept simple. I have used the main idea for my research topic and added a title, heading and some images. I do hope to create a full version by the end of the MA as I feel it will be an important part of my digital portfolio.

I found the iBook Author very easy to use, it has a simple drag and drop functionality with doesn’t require any coding to edit or stylise it. The ePub was a little more difficult. For this task we used Calibre It uses HTML and allows you to finalise detail using code. ePubs allow those without a Mac to access ePublications. With iBooks only those of you with Apple devices will be able to read them in the format in which they are created.

I am unable to add my iBook here due to formatting issues so I have included some screen shots.

Front Page
Chapter One
Page 1
Page 2

My  ePub 

When I saved the ePub originally using Calibre it did have formatted cover text, however, as my computer is now using iBooks to open the document, it appears that the cover text has been removed.

XML – What? Uses? Importance?

The essence of XML is in its name: Extensible Markup Language.

Tom Myer in his piece A Really, Really, Really Good Introduction to XML breaks down XML as the following:

Extensible

XML is extensible. It lets you define your own tags, the order in which they occur, and how they should be processed or displayed. Another way to think about extensibility is to consider that XML allows all of us to extend our notion of what a document is: it can be a file that lives on a file server, or it can be a transient piece of data that flows between two computer systems (as in the case of Web Services).

Markup

The most recognisable feature of XML is its tags, or elements (to be more accurate). In fact, the elements you’ll create in XML will be very similar to the elements you’ve already been creating in your HTML documents. However, XML allows you to define your own set of tags.

Language

XML is a language that’s very similar to HTML. It’s much more flexible than HTML because it allows you to create your own custom tags.

I found that MXL was a simple concept and I needed to be sure that the simplicity that I understood, was not me simply misunderstanding the whole concept. To confirm what I understood to be correct, I decided to read some articles, look at the uses online and watch some tutorial videos explaining more about XML. The one above I found easy to understand and it gave me further understanding of the physical act of writing of XML.

 

Why XML is important ?

In his article ‘What is XML and Why Should Companies Use It?’,  Alan Pelz-Sharpe speaks about how technology in business has become relatively cheep, so smaller home based businesses an now compete on a larger playing filed, however it stresses the need for these businesses to consider and to use XML from the off. The XML data management system is something that must be at the foundation of data management in all businesses or systems using data management, Smaller businesses who do not store or categorise their data correctly run the risk of losing information which may be necessary to their income. Customer data not categorised correctly can in some cases lose the business owner valuable marketing and contact information.

 

My XML Learning Task

As I don’t feel that I have enough content to manage and categorise yet, I chose to take a favourite book of mine and see how i would go about giving it some categorisation structure using XML. The following shows the Author, publisher, title and book description. These are identifiers that I have chosen to categorise the book. The identifiers are very basic and used by many online selling platforms worldwide.

<book>

<author>”Douglas Adams”</author>
<title>”The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”</title>
<genre>Scifi</genre>
<publish_date>1979-10-12</publish_date>
<description>Seconds before the Earth is demolished to make way for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy who, for the last fifteen years, has been posing as an out-of-work actor.
Together this dynamic pair begin a journey through space aided by quotes from The Hitchhiker’s Guide (“A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have”) and a galaxy-full of fellow travelers: Zaphod Beeblebrox–the two-headed, three-armed ex-hippie and totally out-to-lunch president of the galaxy; Trillian, Zaphod’s girlfriend (formally Tricia McMillan), whom Arthur tried to pick up at a cocktail party once upon a time zone; Marvin, a paranoid, brilliant, and chronically depressed robot; Veet Voojagig, a former graduate student who is obsessed with the disappearance of all the ballpoint pens he bought over the years.</description>
</book>

 

I have used an XML Validator to check whether my xml language has been written correctly: CodeBeauty

XML test

and it works!

Development of HTML

Development of HTML

HTML stands for Hyper Text Markup Language. This is the basic format for the scripting language that is used to construct the Web. In 1980, physicist Tim Berners-Lee, then a contractor at CERN, proposed and prototyped ENQUIRE, a system for CERN researchers to use and share documents. In 1989, Berners-Lee wrote a memo proposing an Internet-based hypertext system. Berners-Lee specified HTML and wrote the browser and server software in late 1990

HTML defines the structure and layout of a Web document by using a variety of tags and attributes. HTML describes the structure of a web page semantically and originally included cues for the appearance of the document.

HTML elements are the building blocks of HTML pages. With HTML constructs, images and other objects, such as interactive forms may be embedded into the page. It provides a means to create structured documents with structural semantics for text such as headings, paragraphs, lists, links, quotes and other items. HTML elements are delineated by tags, written using angle brackets.

Tags such as <img /> and <input /> introduce content into the page directly. Others such as <p>…</p> surround and provide information about document text and may include other tags as sub-elements. Browsers do not display the HTML tags, but use them to interpret the content of the page.

CSS stands for Cascading Style Sheets. It is a style sheet language used to describe the design elements of the websites such as the layout, color, font size, etc. It can allow multiple pages to share the same formatting.

My HTML & CSS Task

html-css-doc

File has been saved to: http://www.w3schools.com/code/tryit.asp?filename=FAN97STLHU9P

HTML is something that has haunted me. Coding languages have always made my palms sweat and I have found myself running for the hills when it came to evening trying to understand what they were, let alone try to understand how to use them. HTML is very much a ‘learn by doing’ language. You cannot simply learn of the elements by rote learning, once you figure the fundamental basics that a system must have an open bracket sequence and a closed bracket sequence then you are half way there.

I can see full the logic behind Tim Berners-Lee’s insistence and requirement that a single web language be created. If every developer decided to create their own web language we would have multiple online platforms existing in isolation without any ability to communicate with each other. The other aspect would be the need for multiple operating systems which would need to be able to read and interact with each language created. From an early step in his web creation concept, Berners-Lee realised the importance of a single language to unify all users globally.

My usage of HTML at present is more fine tuning of webpages than it is creating them from scratch. I am able to format the text into multiple structures and layouts. Much like laying out a word document in simple format.  I am able to edit existing web structures to suit my own needs.

I have also began to play with the styling of my webpages and have found CSS great way of doing this. CSS stands for Cascading Style Sheets. It is a style sheet language used to describe the design elements of the websites such as the layout, color, font size, etc. It can allow multiple pages to share the same formatting. While i am still wading my way through HTML, I found that CSS can be a little tricky to tackle. HTML is easier to use for light, while CSS requires more patience and dedication. I have been able to change the text colour, the Heading background colour without too much difficulty. However, changing the entire background colour of the webpage has proved more difficult. I found that I was trying to enter the code across the whole document as if felt that this is logically where it should go, but through using tutorials such as W3Schools, I am now able to see specific examples of text placement and usage and able to see where I am going wrong.