Understanding the authors motive
Agent Zig Zag is a book about double agent Eddie Chapman during World War II. The story itself is captivating — it is one of those books I stayed up through the night to finish. I knew I wanted to add some features to the book, but mostly I wanted to give the audience what the author gave to me (a book you don’t want to put down). I really wanted to hone in on not overpowering or adding things just to add things. I decided to go straight to the whiteboard process to identify my goals, problems, and biggest needs for the ebook.
Creation of Assets
I focused on keeping the color palette fairly neutral with a pop of bright red. It was important for me to get the look of “Secret Agent” before the reader even opened the book.
After hearing I could use Tumult Hype to create some animations into iBooks Author I jumped on an interactive contents page & defining zig zag. I knew it would be that first wow feature to really pull the reader in. Little did I know iBooks and my idea did not mesh well together. After struggling for hours to find out a plan for my animations to lay side by side, and finding out they were running incredibly slow on iBooks (what’s the point of a widget if it doesn’t load for the reader?). Another pain point I struggled with was getting my widgets to be spaced correctly. No matter how many times I messed with margins, deleted paragraphs, and readjusted my sizing on the animation it just didn’t capture the look I was going for.
Changing my outlook
To solve my problem, I decided to look deeper. It was important for me that things lined up correctly and after experimenting I found a small adjustment that ended up shaping the rest of my ebook. Changing my widget into a video.
Did this take twice as long every animation? Yep. Would I go back and do it again just to have everything run quickly and align correctly? You bet. I found once I uploaded these as a quicktime mov and set preferences for the video to play automatically it ran twice as fast as my widgets.
Thinking inside the box (literally)
Relating to the context to the book I went back to my whiteboard process where I highlighted terms and things I didn’t understand in the beginner chapters. I decided instead of a glossary where the reader is pulled from the page to do a pop up with a small icon representing what was next to the term. After some thorough research I was able to find a website with some scanned photos of the places in the book (with even the same time frames!). I didn’t want the reader to get too comfortable with the pop-ups so I decided to narrow down three categories I would focus on.
1 Definitions. Some of the text in the book I had an idea of what the context of the term was but, I wasn’t totally sure.
2Photographs. For some of the places listed in the book I added just an image. While reading through the book I had imagined it myself, but seeing the picture made it that much more spooky.
3 Location. When the author pinpoints some of the places in England I felt it was important to show the reader relatively where it is. Even though at the beginning of the book they tell you where the book is portrayed the Eddie Chapman (the main character) moves around quite a bit even in the first few chapters.
“Immersion is the experience of losing oneself in a fictional world. It’s what happens when people are not merely informed or entertained but actually slip into a manufactured reality.” — J.R.R. Tolkien (Author of the Lord of the Rings Series)
One of my widgets that I didn’t change to a quicktime video was really slow to load. Three times I got kicked out of the Apple Books app on the page with that widget. I decided to switch it out, and immediately after testing it worked great. Another issue I had was some of my videos were spaced incorrectly on my iPad leaving huge pieces of white space at the end of the pages. Even after I made them as small as you can iBooks Author I still ended up with some weird white spaces.
iBooks is a really useful tool, but it needs some serious formatting help. I found myself on iBook help forums for several hours and ultimately realized there isn’t a great self help tour for iBooks (Maybe that will be my next project?). Using my process to find out and fix problems was a huge learning experience. It was ultimately necessary for me to get the results I needed. Would I use iBooks on another project? There is potential. Overall I am happy with how it turned out.
Cassidy Bouse is a student in the Digital Media program at Utah Valley University, Orem Utah studying Web Design with an emphasis in Interaction & Design. This article relates to the DGM 2260 Immersive Authoring course and is representative of skills learned during the iBooks Author Project.