iBooks Author vs. Book Creator

Dan KempBlog, iPad

Promo poster for the iBooks Author vs Book Creator debate

What happens if you compare these two apps, looking at student-created vs. teacher-created books?

Last night there was an #ibookschat on Twitter that focused on student-centred authoring using Book Creator, against teacher-centred authoring with iBooks Author. Although we were invited to participate, because we’re on GMT time here in the UK that would have involved waking up at 2am. Having said that, it was a pretty lively debate and I’m quite glad I stayed out of it!

First and foremost, this was a fantastic example of how Twitter chats work at their best, congratulations to Justin Bell for organising it. You can read the full transcript of the chat via Storify (update – Storify will cease to be in May 2018 so this link will disappear. It also seems Justin Bell has deleted his Twitter account so some tweets are now missing).

In the build up there were some great memes and plenty of fighting talk. It was all very tongue-in-cheek. What followed was an excellent debate, both informative and entertaining.

I want to express our personal thanks from the Book Creator team to those teachers who fought our corner: Jon Smith, Jenny Grabiec, Michael Cohen, Leah LaCrosse, Billie Ann Blalock and Casey Cohen. You did a sterling job!

I’ve tried to summarise the debate below, and then offered our own viewpoint as a conclusion. If you disagree, or want to keep the debate alive, feel free to post a comment at the end of the article!

The arguments for Book Creator

Each team was given 5 minutes to put forward a case for their app, starting with Book Creator. Here’s a summary of the arguments for Book Creator:

  • Simple (but with potential to be as complex as you need)
  • Easy to navigate, self-explanatory
  • Easier than creating on a MacBook

  • Mobile, creates a seamless experience, accessible to all
  • Easy to submit to the iBooks Store for publishing
  • Merge books and collaborate
  • Can annotate and draw
  • Can import videos
  • Can add audio to give every child a voice
  • Engages students and makes them responsible for their own learning, helps them understand what it means to be a writer

  • Ability to app smash – “the digital glue” for other projects
  • The focus is on content creation
  • Can export as ePub, which is a universal format, rather than just Apple’s proprietary .ibooks format

The case for iBooks Author

The iBooks Author team then got their chance, the main arguments being:

  • iBooks Author is free
  • Fully interactive with embeddable content
  • Templates are provided
  • Makes use of interactive widgets (e.g. embedding Google forms with Bookry widgets)
  • Lets teachers show their creative side, and create their own personalised content, with a professional finish

  • Frees teachers from being chained to big textbook companies, whose books can become out of date
  • Immerses students in interactive content and gives them a strong foundation for application
  • Encourages teachers to learn new technology beyond iBA, such as Adobe Edge and iAd Producer

The rebuttals

After the cases were put forward, there was time for each team to argue back and forth. Some people pointed out that although iBooks Author is free, you need a much more expensive piece of hardware to use it. Others noted that widgets weren’t as necessary in Book Creator because you can ‘app smash’ with other apps and integrate them that way.

The iBA team countered that Book Creator is just a simple version of iBooks Author, and at some stage you should be “graduating” from Book Creator to iBA. Likewise, it was argued that iBooks Author is too complex to use for younger students.

As the conversations went back and forth, it became apparent that the debate was about more than just comparing two tools – and that in itself was not particularly useful – it’s more interesting to focus on using the right tool for the right job.

The debate then moved on to round 2, looking at teacher-created vs. student-created books.

The case for teacher-created books

  • Create self-paced lessons with all materials in one place
  • Teachers can be curators of student content
  • Books are “multimodal” which allows many types of learners to engage, and teachers can differentiate
  • Books can be personalised for students

  • Once the book is downloaded, you don’t need an internet connection
  • Teachers can create with full accessibility options in mind
  • Create content that students don’t yet know about
  • Kids can’t say they lost the learning materials when it’s created in iBooks Author by the teacher!
  • Allows for flipped classroom – students learn outside the classroom so get more face-to-face time with teacher

The case for student-created books

  • When kids make the book, that’s ownership
  • The process of making a book allows students to express themselves, demonstrate learning, and creates meaning for them
  • Authoring (and publishing) a book is one of the most empowering things a person can do
  • Books created become a record of student work, which creates a legacy

  • Students love re-reading the books they’ve made (and their peers’ books)
  • Students will take their books home and show their parents (they won’t do that with their teacher’s book!)
  • When students teach others with their books, that creates deeper meaning

  • App smashing allows for multiple levels of understanding and creation
  • Students decide how they want to communicate – voice, words, images – and they become better communicators
  • Use a variety of media in the book – including music

Our view on the debate

I think we should commend those teachers who are able to passionately defend their point of view, even via the medium of 140 characters! It’s teachers like these who are the future of education, and will take EdTech technology and push it beyond the boundaries.

We don’t view Book Creator and iBooks Author as an either/or choice, instead we see them as complementary. Book Creator is intentionally a simple tool because the iPad is engineered for simplicity – anyone can pick it up and get creative. I’m not sure iBooks Author would be as useful on the iPad or accessible to as many students, and conversely Book Creator on the Mac might seem a little lightweight!

Let’s hope that over time Book Creator and iBooks Author can become even more complementary. It’s not that long ago that Apple introduced the ability to import ePubs into iBooks Author, meaning that Book Creator books could be exported and opened in iBooks Author for the first time. It’s still a bit clunky, but will no doubt develop over time, and as the tools mature – and students mature – this might become the natural progression that students make as they move from iPads to MacBooks in their classrooms, taking their books with them.

Opening a Book Creator book in iBooks Author

Opening a Book Creator book in iBooks Author

We created quite a buzz when we announced we were bringing widgets to Book Creator, only to find that it wasn’t as easy to do as we hoped. Apple have the iBooks eco-system pretty locked down, and perhaps rightly so. However, if they opened up the gates to allow us to bring full widget capability to Book Creator, I think everyone would win.

But that brings us on to the teacher vs. student-created books debate. The reason students love creating books in Book Creator, we believe, is because the app is simple to use, and more importantly, it offers a blank canvas for them to be creative without being too prescriptive. If you haven’t read it, have a look at Ian Wilson’s post where he eloquently describes this important concept. We have to be careful about how many new bells and whistles we introduce to Book Creator, as the success is in its simplicity.

It seems obvious to me that Book Creator is the right app for student-created books, as iBooks Author is for teacher-created books. This is because for teachers, it’s the end product that’s important – getting all the content into the book, with a polished design, and making it fully interactive and accessible so students get the most out of it. iBooks Author is great for that – and if you haven’t got all the design skills there’s some great templates to get you started.

But for students, the payoff comes as much in the process of creating a book as it does in the finished result. It’s the journey, not the destination, as Cormac Cahill puts it. We hear of kids teaching other kids to use the app, learning about new cultures whilst collaborating with schools in other countries, learning important research skills, discovering other apps to smash together – and so on, and so on.

It was really interesting to see this debate unfold. Let’s continue the conversation.

The last word…

Thanks Justin ;)

6 Comments on “iBooks Author vs. Book Creator”

  1. I don’t see why it had to be a teacher vs student created books debate. If only the students get to create books, then teachers really miss out on all the fun. I like both tools. I like BC because it is more accessible (on an iPad and able to be read on different kinds of devices) but those widgets in iBA can really take the experience of your audience to a different level. An iBA book is like going to the cinema. It’s about developing a visual experience for your audience. Hey, notice I didn’t call them ‘readers’?

    The two are different. I have had young students author with both tools. So I won’t choose but if you ever did crack the widget puzzle – that would change everything.

    1. Totally agree Jane. The debate was trying to address two different purposes for eContent construction. In terms of teacher created content on the iPad, I look forward to the day when Book Creator can publish ePub as reflowing text. Teachers will be able to more easily create differentiated content with embedded comprehension cues and students can take advantage of the annotation and note taking tools in iBooks to more actively engage in the reading process.

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