iBooks Widgets 101

There are ebooks and there are iBooks™.

The difference is that an ebook is basically an e-publication made up of text and images, while an iBook is a multi-touch, interactive, feature-rich ebook. To be fair, the other major difference is that iBooks can only be viewed on iPads as well as Macs running the new OS X Mavericks (10.9). Nonetheless, if you’re looking at creating an enhanced version of a current ebook or PDF, or if you simply want to distribute your material to an audience with an iPad, iBooks are the way to go.

What makes iBooks so powerful are the dynamic widgets you can integrate in your publication to enhance the reader’s experience. In many ways, an iBook is a hybrid between an app and an ebook. Another way to look at it is to see iBooks as a way to create a publication that offers interactive content to engage the reader and add functionality to your text content.

The current set of available widgets are listed here. I’ll go in more details in future postings:

gallery_html_modules_iconHTML Modules: To me, the most important widget. Using HTML, Javascript and CSS code, we create widgets that can do amazing things such as dynamic charts and graphs, decision trees, sortable and filterable tables among the infinite possibilities. We then add them to your book alongside the text. And if we can connect to a database, dynamically updated data keep widgets current.


Keynote Presentations: Let your readers browse Keynote presentations with custom animations — right inside your iBooks using intuitive controls for slide navigation and optional self-playing presentations. If you have a PowerPoint Presentation, that’s not a problem. It can be converted to Keynote format and then imported into the iBook.


Interactive Galleries: Instead of seeing just one image on the page, readers can swipe through an entire collection of  photos and captions. They can navigate the gallery using photo thumbnails or step through images one at a time.

gallery_media_iconMedia: Video and audio bring any subject matter to life, anywhere on the page. Readers will experience text and images — instead of just reading and viewing them. Movies can play automatically either in the space they are provided, or full-screen.

gallery_interactive_3d_icon3D Images:
 Readers can interact with 3D objects by touch. So instead of seeing just a cross section of the brain, they can manipulate a 3D image to see all the way around it. However, keep in mind that the tricky part is getting the 3D image in the first place.

gallery_pop_over_iconPop-Over: A picture may be worth a thousand words, but sometimes it can use a few more. Pop-Overs let readers tap an image to reveal a window of additional information, images, or other data to give more context. We use this widget as a way to add a footnote, so that the reader stays on the page.

gallery_scrolling_sidebars_iconScrolling Sidebars: Insert relevant asides and tangential topics into scrolling sidebars. So readers can go with you on a short (or long) detour, without ever leaving the page. Very useful since they can contain text, images and links.

gallery_interactive_images_iconInteractive Images: Pictures go further when they’re interactive. Callouts and pan-and-zoom features add even more to the experience. Great for offering more details about parts of an image.


Note: iBook™ is a trademark of Apple, Inc.