Finally, the second project I developed for the University of California, Riverside is out and available at the iTunes store. This time is the UCR Magazine, Spring 2012, a publication done by the Office of Strategic Communications.
This issue explores how the University of California, Riverside’s research on data mining is being used in advertising, genetics and virtually every discipline to uncover trends. Read profiles of campus notables, such as California’s newest Poet Laureate, UCR professor Juan Felipe Herrera. Discover the science of atomtronics as told by professor Shan-Wen Tsai, California’s liquid assets and check out various Highlander news.
It was a good challenge and learning process to put this together. Compared to the previous publication I developed a month ago; Living the Promise (with only 21 pages), the new magazine has 84 pages and although not much interactivity, trying to keep close to the design for the print version, proved to be quite of a challenge sometimes.
Some of the things I’ve learn in the process
Apple has created a great product with iBooks Author. Overall it is an easy program; and if you are familiar with Keynote (Apple response to Microsoft Power Point), the interface and “modus operandi” is very similar.
Still the program is on its infancy. I’ve found a few bugs but fortunately with the help of the iBook community I ended up figuring out a work around, but there are a few problems I’m still fighting.
One of the biggest challenges has been working with both orientations. Landscape gives you many options to design your layouts, while the Portrait is quite limited and quirky. The only solution is to keep switching between orientations every time you make a design change, to see how it affects the other orientation. Although I like the fact that portrait orientation simplifies the design and pretty much creates a long column of text; easy and fast to read without the distraction of graphics, the difficulty of including some images you may consider important to accompany the text is sometimes annoying. Converting into Widgets the photos you want to appear on the sidebar is just a poor option.
I’ve found annoying the three options to place images in your articles (inline, floating and anchored). Inline would have been my first option for most of them, but the way iBooks places the image within the text; treating it just as another character, makes impossible to wrap text around so in order to keep most of my designs I had to use “floating” and move the image manually every time the text moved. Forget about any option for portrait mode,… just impossible. I am still trying to understand how and when to use “anchor”.
Paragraph and Character styles are a life saver. Learn to use them as soon as possible and they will save you time and headaches.
Stylizing your links is another bug for the program. By default all links have a specific style defined by iBooks and although you can change it, you won’t be able to see how they look until you export the iBook to your tablet. Not big deal, but never the less a detail they should solve.
Sharing color and sizes for titles, and text boxes between both orientations is still a secret to me. I could not figured out when and how to make it work, so I just cut my loses and went with the flow, letting the program do its thing.
Many small things, and tricks I’ve learn while creating my two first publications, but the most important one was to optimize images for the new iPad screen resolution without creating huge files. At the beginning I wasn’t too concern about the size on pixels of my images. I would just place them in my pages and re size them down when needed. Soon I learned how a file can get very big in size and affect download time for the user. You don’t want the user to have to wait more than 5 minutes to download your publication (at least the kind of free publications we are creating). So I started to re size and crop images in photoshop at the size they will be for the final publication, and it really helped.
Something else are movies. Use them with caution. Placing them is so easy and natural, that pretty soon you find yourself adding videos here and there and your publication becomes a 2 Gigabits monster that will take 10 minutes to download. Remember these are not streaming movies, iBooks will include them within the file, all megabites included.
Finally the delivery and approval process was quite easy for a free publication. Once you understand the assets required, it takes about two weeks for Apple to approve your publication; you just have to send it using iTunes Producer and they will shoot you an email once the book is available on their store. I find this a good deal.
All in all, I really like iBooks. I hope Apple keeps working on the program and fixes some of the bugs as well as include some implementations on their next version. The bad news is leaving other tablets, outside the possibility of downloading and reading your books, but ey, that the way Apple do things. Don’t fight it just use it
Until next time.