iBooks Author and Scrivener for Mac

Just a few quick notes on iBooks Author, as understandably we’re already receiving questions about the best way of going from Scrivener to Apple’s new e-book publishing tool.

To answer the most obvious question first, I’m afraid it won’t be possible to provide a direct export to iBooks Author, as the .iba format is proprietary and not in the public domain (and Apple hasn’t historically shared its file formats with third parties). At least, not to the best of my knowledge – if Apple did make it public then we’d certainly look at it.

So, for the foreseeable future, that leaves other formats for import and export. When I heard the rumours about an e-book creator being announced at today’s Apple event, I had high hopes that it would open and save .epub files. Unfortunately, despite iBooks Author having WYSIWYG editing and generating files that seem to be at least based on .epub, this isn’t the case. iBooks Author saves to the proprietary .iba format and publishes to the .ibooks format (which seems to be Apple’s version of .epub, much as .rtfd is Apple’s extended version of .rtf; iBooks Author cannot open or import .ibooks files, however). This is perhaps unsurprising, as Apple are obviously only interested in generating content for iBooks (iBooks Author – hmm, the clue might be in the name). What this means for Scrivener users, though, is that you can’t just export an .epub from Scrivener and open that up in iBooks Author.

Currently, the only way of bringing existing text into iBooks Author is by importing Word .doc and .docx files, or Pages .pages files (the latter being another of Apple’s proprietary formats). Moreover, each file you import is treated as a chapter or section – there is at the moment no way in iBooks Author of importing a large text file and splitting it up into chapters after it’s been imported, other than by using copy and paste. (In these regards, iBooks Author feels very much like a 1.0 release – given that it is clearly designed for laying out and producing beautiful e-books, not for creating the content in the first place, we can hope that the import features will improve in future versions.)

For Scrivener users, this means that the best way of getting your work into iBooks Author is to compile to the .docx format, and then drag the resulting file into iBooks Author. You’ll then have to copy and paste the text into different chapters in iBA itself. You could compile each chapter to a separate file, but that would be time consuming.

Scrivener for Mac’s .docx export isn’t, in truth, the best at the moment, as it tends to lose certain formatting and doesn’t support images, which may be a problem for some types of text but shouldn’t cause problems for novels and text-only first drafts (this is because it currently uses the standard OS X exporters, the same ones that are used in TextEdit – Apple uses its own proprietary .docx importers and exporters in its own programs, not the ones provided to third-party developers in the Cocoa frameworks). The good news is that I am currently working on better .doc, .docx and .odt support, so this situation should be improved in the next update. We’re also thinking about what better ways we can provide of going from Scrivener to iBooks Author – for instance, by generating different .docx files for each chapter – given that I’m sure that many users are going to want to do this after they’ve hammered out their text in Scrivener.

Please bear in mind that I have only had as long as anyone else to play with iBooks Author, so the above is all just based on a couple of hours of testing. Over all, iBooks Author looks very nice, and once we find the best workflow for getting your Scrivener text into it, then I’m sure it will be a great way of taking your Scrivener drafts and turning them into beautiful e-books on iBooks.

14 thoughts on “iBooks Author and Scrivener for Mac”

  1. I greatly appreciate this update on your thoughts about iBooks Author. I look forward to seeing what you come up with in the future. Like the gentleman who commented earlier, I love Scrivener and won’t be going anywhere. :)

  2. Then again, a better way for Apple to handle it would be to write L&L a big FAT check to acquire Scrivener. The best book publishing software on the planet!

  3. iBooks Author was intended to be a development tool for the iBooks store, not as a general purpose ePub creator app. In exchange for its free price, you get to take advantage of Apple’s iBooks store and its promotional muscle to make money. I think that’s reasonable.

    As for general publishing of ebooks for the myriad onlne outlets (including the iBooks store), Scrivener is probably the finest product out there.

    Choice is good.

  4. WARNING: A few author friends of mine have looked into iBookstore Author. Two scary things popped up: First, publishing to iBookstore through that program requires that you publish EXCLUSIVELY through Apple…which for 99% of the authors I know, is definitely NOT their main source of online book revenue. Second, you have to sign up for an iTunes account with your credit card and real name…and this info is made PUBLIC. So much for your “pen name.” Plus, one author friend said she found it not very user-friendly. Maybe it’s great for big publishers making interactive textbooks, but for the rest of us…NO WAY! And if you write any kind of erotica–guess what? Apple has now removed that whole category, probably to “clean up” the look of their bookstore. No more erotica bestseller lists, no more erotica category–so good luck finding an erotica book to read, or getting your books seen, so they can be sold!

  5. I think that iBooks Author is NOT an option for anybody because of all the valid reasons that Anonymous1 has posted. For me, iBooks Author was dead on arrival because of Apple’s brutal attempts at locking in their customers. So, Scrivener still is the best tool for writing and publishing to eBook formats on the market. I only wish you’d make Scrivener for Linux a first class citizen. I’m already more fed up with Apple than I ever was with Microsoft, so my next platform will definitely be some flavor of Linux.

  6. First a tip: It’s a bit of trouble, but if you compile each of your Scrivener chapters and export them one-by-one to consecutively numbered files, you can then drag and drop the entire lot onto the chapter list on the left side of the IBooks Author window. Each file will be imported in the order sorted by OS X and installed into separate chapters with a name based on the file name. If Keith can give us a Scrivener option that makes compiling that numbered set of files equally easy, exporting to iBooks Author won’t be that hard.

    Second some reassurance: Calm down. The ‘only for the iBookstore’ stipulation is in the iBooks Air license. If it’s even binding at all, it only applies to the non-standard EPUB file you export from that app. It doesn’t and can’t apply to that book you’ve written in Scrivener, Word or whatever and formatted for publication using some other app.

  7. @Mike Perry:

    I am very sorry, but I have to contradict here regarding the legal issue of the iBooks Author software. There is a passage of the EULA of the app (not only for Air) which is legally controversal, because it refers to “your work” and not to only “your .iBA file” or “your product”. This means, that Apple could claim a right to exclusiveliy publish the content i.e. your text in the case that you want others to pay for it. This is a reason for the big buzz about it.

    More about this and more links: http://gizmodo.com/5877736/sell-youre-book-in-the-ibookstore-and-apple-wont-let-you-sell-it-anywhere-else

    Maybe it was just a mistake of some lawyers, but if they do not change this to be more specific I would be very careful with using this software. I think this software is not intended for eBooks (novels etc.), but for the iTunes U portal and mainly for educational purposes. That makes sense, because the EULA “encourage” the authors to distribute their “work” for free in which case they are allowed to distribute it anywhere – but not for money.

    Maybe it is not a mistake, but an experiment to test the reaction.

  8. p.s. I am deep in love with Scrivener and would like to fully recommend it to anyone who wants to work with long texts of every kind, especially for eBooks and in combination with LaTeX for print. It was the best investment I ever made! Keep going, guys!

  9. I’m new to Scrivener but I’m loving it so far. After reading this article via G+ today http://bit.ly/x9cx5X my first thought was, “Hrm, I wonder if Scrivener will ever have an add-on or something to let me publish to ebook from it in the same sort of way?”

    Because I’m really frugal and don’t buy a lot of software but I’m happy enough with Scrivener so far that I’d be keen to pay you to make it so I can not have to use iBooks Author or anything else like it at all.

  10. Sorry to interrupt the conversation but, I am trying to add this RSS feed to iMail….it just keep trying to load. Doesn’t list anything. Anything wrong on your end?

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