So you’re posting those richly colored, exquisitely composed images to Facebook and Instagram, but how do you get your work organized into a theme or tell a story? You could have the thrill of holding your work in your hands by self-publishing hard-copy books through Blurb or others. That’s all very well, but you have to work hard to get the color balance right: The deep blues in underwater shots are a killer to get right—my first whale book was a total disaster.
A somewhat easier option that delivers great results is producing an Apple iBook and uploading it to iTunes. It costs nothing except your own time, and you can make your e-books available at no cost or even sell them if you prefer.
You will be working in two applications, iTunes Producer and iBooks Author. The creative work is done in the latter, and it’s reasonably intuitive to use, it has a good help section, and there is a range on online tutorials available. To get started, download the PDF of Apple’s iBooks Publisher User Guide. Here, we’ll use our latest book, Reef Life: A Celebration of Indo-Pacific Marine Life, as an example to take a look at the process of putting an iBook together.
First things first, start with preparing your images and set up a folder and sub-folders that will represent the book and its chapters. Some semblance of organization here will save you some later frustration and smooth the construction of the book.
I work in Adobe Lightroom using collections from our RAW images. Once I’m happy with an image, I use the File Export function to create JPGs with the following settings:
The resolution of the standard iPad’s retina screen is 2,048 pixels, and this seems to give a good quality image for computer screens as well (I use the same settings for my website images). The iPad Pro resolution is larger—2,732 pixels—so that’s another option. I keep the image size to 1000Kb, but 500Kb would probably also be fine. Lightroom’s Export with Previous function helps enormously in speeding the processing of images.
Putting It Together
Here’s where the rubber meets the road in iBooks Author. I start with a blank template but you can also use one of those provided when the program opens. You will likely want to get things organized into chapters, a useful navigation tool for your book. Reef Life is nearly 800 pages so chapters were essential.
Images are dragged onto the page and easily resized. Text can be added through the text box feature. Fonts, size and color are all adjustable. I find a gray is more subtle and allows the image to be dominant, while text size 14 seems to work well for captions.
Pages, chapters and sections can be added or deleted by using the add pages button (small red circle) or by right clicking on the chapter or page (large red circle). For most books, just using chapters rather than also including sections may be sufficient. You can see the chapter structure starting to build on the left-hand side.
Here’s how the navigation looks in the final product. If you don’t merely want to swipe progressively from page to page, you can swipe from chapter to chapter on the top section of the page and then swipe along the thumbnails and tap the image you want—an essential feature for large books.
Of course, you’ll want to create an eye-catching cover page. For that, you’ll need a portrait-oriented image and overlay the text. As the cover page disappears as soon as the book opens, I duplicate the cover as page one in the book.
It’s a good idea to check how the book will look on your device. Hitting the preview button (small red circle) will bring up this option and load a proof copy to your computer or a connected iPad (large red circle). I find it easier to proofread on my iPad and use this feature quite a bit to check for typos and image quality.
Refine and Publish (and Refine Again)
When all the editing and polishing is finally done and the pictures are near perfect, it’s time to commit. Hit the publish button and your work will be on its way. The program takes you through a process to document your iBook and provide a description that will appear on iTunes. It’s a prescriptive process so be attentive to the detail. After review, the iBook will usually be available online in 24 hours.
Perfectionists rejoice: If you find any mistakes after you publish—as I usually do—it’s very simple to update with a corrected version. We have used this feature quite a bit to add new pages and images to our iBooks.
Now all you need to do is sink into your favorite armchair with your iPad and survey your handiwork. And then let your buddies know where they can read an awesome e-book for nothing—or maybe a small fee.