As a reader of books, an author of 13+ book titles (7+ books in multiple languages) and someone who has assisted many people from diverse countries to edit, publish, transform and/or distribute their own books, I am curious about what’s happening in the book world. That’s true whether they are print books, audiobooks, standard reflowable ebooks as well as fixed layout ebooks, which can be —but aren’t always— multimedia books with embedded audio or video content. You may have noticed that almost two years ago in 2018, Apple removed the i prefix from the platform which used to be Apple iBooks and is now simply Apple Books. This week in June 2020, I received a mass email message from Apple indicating that its free application iBooks Author was going end-of-life, in favor of its core functions having been added to the free Apple Pages app, a process that began two years ago. Now it is time to share my conspiracy theory about how all of this may be a preparation for a pending, brand-new Apple product to be released this year. I have no inside information from Apple; I just read between the lines from the entire industry.
My prior articles covering iBooks Author and competitive ebook authoring apps
Here are some of my prior articles regarding the iBooks Author and competitive apps:
- The making of a cross-platform audio/video multimedia ebook from 2016
- Kindle Textbook Creator facilitates embedding audio/video from 2015
- iPad Pro 2020, new Mac Mini & MacBook Air: their own + related innovations from March 2020, and mentions both Ulysses and Vellum, two other authoring tools I use on macOS.
The original iBook from Apple
You may recall that the original iBook from Apple was a laptop. The iBook laptop from Apple lasted from 1999 to 2006 in three different designs.
The first design as a clamshell (shown above). Later designs were as you see below:
My conspiracy theory
As most of the world knows, even though ebooks can indeed be read on an iPad (Pro) or LED smartphone like an iPhone, the user experience has not (yet) come even close to the superior one which is available from an e-ink (electronic ink) e-reader. That fact is most noticeable when attempting to read under bright sunlight, but even inside at night, it is much more comfortable to read from e-ink than from any variety of LED. Even if you use the best matte screen protector in the world, none comes close to the e-ink experience, which is like reading from a piece of paper. With e-ink (except when you are in the dark or a very dim situation), all you need to read is the naturally reflected light. Fortunately, e-ink is not a technology exclusive to Amazon: Many other e-ink devices have been on the market for many years, from the equally closed portal-devices like Barnes & Noble’s e-ink Nook, Kobo’s readers (Forma, Libra H2O, Clara HD) to others that are quite open and can be used to source directly from multiple online ebook platforms (except Apple Books), although at a higher price than the closed ones from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Kobo.
As many know, 2020 is the coming of age of e-ink for faster refresh and even color displays. (Previously, consumer e-ink products have only been grayscale.) This year several color e-ink devices are coming out (or already have), although the first e-ink smartphone I’ll be reviewing is grayscale, because the already available color one is not to my taste. That’s why I’ll review color e-ink devices later.
Here’s the conspiracy theory:
I suspect that Apple has always wanted to offer an e-ink reader, but preferred to wait until the technology matured to allow for color instead of greyscale. Knowing that the new e-ink technology was approaching, I suspect that for the past two years, Apple has been lining up the ducks to revive its original iBook trademark for its upcoming series of color e-ink readers by renaming the platform to just Apple Books and consolidating the authoring features inside the Pages app instead of the now end-of-life iBooks author app.
The above is a mockup. I have no idea whether Apple will ever release such a product. If my conspiracy theory becomes a reality, the new device will certainly acquire content from the Apple Books platform, perhaps exclusively or perhaps openly…
Image credits for this article
Both of the iBook laptops are in the public domain. The white one is courtesy of Lemon-s. The clamshell one is from Carlos Vidal (chiste) which translates to “joke” but I am not joking. That one is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
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