A thought on iBooks

A window

I am writing my first book using iBooks author. It's nothing major, just about 50 pages on a presentation concept I call "Idea Painting." As I continue to research the concept, and do more reading on communication theory, I be adding to the book over time, and issue updates through the iBooks store. Yes, there will also be editions for the Nook and Kindle, but the multi-media aspects of iBooks Author make it idea for my subject.

It's the ability to update editions, and push them out to clients, which intrigues me. This morning I receive a FaceBook message from a friend who happens to be a missionary in Israel. Apparently the newsletter he mailed to us bounced back to him and he wanted me to confirm my mailing address. I provided it, but I also told him to save the cash and just email me a PDF of the newsletter to me (I hate paper, saving cash for him was a win-win). The newsletter is laid out pretty well, and has some good updates. My friend is a decent writer, and so you actually get to meet a little bit of his heart in his stories.

As I waited for my iPad to open up the PDF, I began to wonder if there might be an even better way for him to send out his updates. What if he could still write his stories - but include videos, sideshows, charts, and interactive maps with them? What if he could have his friends and supporters download his newsletter once, and have it updated automatically when he adds new content? If this were possible, his readers wouldn't have to dig through an in-box or rustle through papers to try to find the newsletter which was "on the counter somewhere." As an added bonus, the newsletter could grow over time, with each successive updated becoming a new chapter. Old reflections and highlights can be easily referenced and searched, and updates on previous stories can be linked back to their antecedent thoughts for better context.

I find this idea compelling. Of course, the drawback currently is that comparatively few people currently own an iPad, which would limit the field such an edition could reach. On the other hand, uploading this edition to the iBooks store would also make it discoverable by anyone, with a good description and some word of mouth it could have a wider audience than we might think. There other major eBook stores would also be remiss if they left something like iBooks Author to go unchallenged, and there are currently technologies for eInk type displays which can do both color and full motion video. In the next several years an edition similar to an iBooks Authored work should be available on all the major platforms, so why not begin to practice with the concept? It's certainly worth a shot.

I see two downsides to this concept.

First, it puts a third party between a missionary and supports which is outside the missionary's organization. The iBook stores are businesses, not missionary or philanthropic endeavors. Still, missionaries have been using government mail services for years so adding a third party intermediary does seem to be a huge obstacle.

Second, and more difficult to overcome, is a lack of subscriber data. I know magazines have negotiated with the major eBook stores to gain subscriber information. I have yet to see if such information is available to eBook authors. If this information is not available, then this might not be a path to take as missionaries really need to form something akin to an actual relationship with those who subscribe to their updates. Still, if updates could be submitted as a free magazine, subscriber information could be obtained. I have no problem with this as long as the authors let subscribers know their information will be shared!

Anyway, just a thought on yet another way for workers in the field to share their amazing stories.