Episode 76: Rich Media Books
In this show I talk to David Neal, who is someone I met on the now defunct #futurechat publishing Twitter chat. He has self-published the appBook Alice Winks and has quite a large amount of experience with Rich Media books, that is those books that contain more than just text and pictures. They can contain interactive elements (that is choices), videos and other graphical elements.
If an author is interested in creating a book that contains richer media than just text and pictures what are their options?
The standard in eBooks is ePub 3, which actually supports more than you see in most eBook reading devices, but most stores barely support these enhancements. If you need full support then iBooks Author is an option which has more support for rich media and simple hyperlinks. For total control of the experience you could create your own app (though this requires programming skills). He also says that you can create a lot using HTML 5 on the Open Web (that is you create a web page with rich media), though it is harder to make any money doing that as it’s not easy to directly charge for your work.
Which platform is best for creating more interactive books?
David reckons iBooks and the iBooks Author product is the best place to start. You can do video and audio and include hyper-linking which you can use to provide some level of interactivity. For normal ePubs there are much more limited tools like Calibre that you could use to add media effects. For total control you would need to write Apps, but has a very steep learning curve. On the web you could use a tool like Dreamweaver, which is probably as easy as iBooks author. iBooks author restricts the distribution of the iBooks file to just being on Apple, though you can create the pdf that you can distribute.
With your own Alice Winks project did you create that with iBooks or did you write an app?
Starting initially with some vertical video files, David wanted a way to sell them. Amazon wouldn’t take them as videos without a DVD option (which made no sense for vertical video) and iBooks Author at the time didn’t support it very well, so David wrote an app which he submitted to both the Android and the Apple stores. But Apple rejected it because it was “just a video” which was against their terms of service. However iBooks Author had been upgraded in the meantime and he was pointed towards that by the people at Apple. So he converted it to an Apple iBook using the iBooks Author product.
How long did it take you to create the book?
The video itself took 9 months. This included voice work and animation, including hiring film-school trainees as animators. The iBook creation was quick. It took another 9 months to release the book, but most of that was trying to get an app approved, rather than creating the book with iBook Author.
Is it easier or harder to market a rich media book?
David says that in his view it is very difficult. He has hired marketing firms, advertised in the New York Times and run Facebook and Twitter ads. Most of these were failures. Of all of them, Facebook advertising was the best, but even that wasn’t very good. Most of his sales were for the iBook version. He has discovered that this is not unique to him, even the most successful rich media producers aren’t making that much money.
Are these rich media books in their own section in the iBook store?
No. They are all mixed up with all the other books, in the not particularly easy to navigate iBook store. David has said that he has searched for books he has owned on the iBooks store and he can’t even find them!
What is the best example of a book you’ve seen with rich media and some level of interactivity?
David recommends the following rich media books:
Animator’s Survival Kit by Richard Williams (Faber & Faber):
Made by the director of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and in-depth guide to how to create animation.
Arcadia by Iain Pears (Amphio Ltd.):
This isn’t that media rich, but it’s a choose-your-own-path style book. It has many paths you can follow through the story.
The Waste Land by TS Elliot (TouchPress):
How difficult is it for someone to just add something like a video at the start of every chapter? Can you do rich media in a small way without spending months on it?
You should be able to do it, though David is more confident of doing it on iBooks rather than on Kindle with their kf8 format. But it should be relatively easy to do (though will involve some low-level work on the ePub). David says that iBooks author is actually really easy to use, though of course is only for the Apple iBooks store.
How can people find out about you and AliceWinks?
You can buy AliceWinks are the following locations:
Alicewinks purchase sites:
Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/
Audible (Audiobook): https://www.amazon.com/Alicewi
Vimeo (video mp4): https://vimeo.com/ondemand/ali
To find out more about AliceWinks:
You can find him on Twitter at @walruswinks, and on the following websites where he blogs about other topics like vertical video:
web site: exit109.com/~dnn
vimeo account: https://vimeo.com/user13032417
If you liked this interview then you might like Organising a Mega-Book Launch with Kate Erickson, The Benefits of Standard Procedures with Tony Brown or Book Publicity with Janet Murray