View Full Version : Any windows program comparable to iBooks Authoring tools?

01-19-2012, 10:46 AM
Sigil is clunky and poorly designed. Apple is giving these tools away for free.

Scrivener for windows has good epub export capabilities but not the multimedia support.

Hoping to hear your suggestions. Thanks.

01-19-2012, 11:01 AM
This is not "News". Moved to the ePub forum.

01-19-2012, 05:35 PM
There are no other authoring programs that force you to sell your books though the iBook store. And why would a Windows program lock you into the iBook store, anyway?

Sorry, perhaps this belongs in the Vent&Rant thread in the Llounge. I just don't like corporate silos.

01-20-2012, 01:23 AM
Pholy, I'm not advocating for Apple tools. I'm hoping there's a comparable alternative to produce epubs. I've looked at the ones featured in the forums and they are not comparable in features or design. The point of having alternate authoring tools is to avoid the lock in but if the current options are less functional, more costly, and difficult to use, the free tools from Apple are going to favor ebook production for their platform. If there exists a good alternative, surely someone on this site would be able to make a recommendation.

01-20-2012, 04:54 AM
I counted five software methods of creating ePubs in the sticky section of this forum, and six if you include Sigil.

For what it is worth my method is to markup a Word document into valid XHTML using an HTML editor, write the content.opf and toc.ncx to match, package these files and the stylesheet into and ePub file, and make any corrections necessary until the ePub validates. Everything except the HTML editor is free, but I know that there are freeware HTML editors. But this method certainly takes time.

01-21-2012, 03:49 PM
Since when is Apple giving away good tools to create ePUBs? They may be reasonable in for creating Apple's poor excuse for ePUB.

If you find Sigil clunky and poor designed (personally I dare you to do the same with the Apple tools), comment on it in the Sigil sub-forum. Then perhaps changes can be made.

01-21-2012, 04:22 PM
Since when is Apple giving away good tools to create ePUBs? They may be reasonable in for creating Apple's poor excuse for ePUB.

In fairness to Apple, they make no claim that the files their tool produces are ePub files. They are specifically iBooks files.

01-22-2012, 03:56 AM
Then they finally confirm that they have no interest in ePUB, but only in their own format. Which is fine of course. As long as they no longer call it ePUB.

Wheat Williams
01-27-2012, 12:58 AM
The Windows tool that is most analogous to Apple iBooks Author is Adobe InDesign for Windows. It costs $500.

With iBooks Author, Apple is making the tool available for free but to use it you must own an Apple Macintosh to run the tool on. This is analogous to what it takes to develop apps for iPhone or iPad. You can only develop apps for iOS using the Apple Xcode software development environment, which is free, but you must own an Apple Macintosh to run it on. End of story.

You can buy a Mac mini for $600 and run the free Apple iBooks Author on it. That's not too much more expensive than buying Adobe InDesign for the Windows computer you already own. Of course Adobe InDesign is much more flexible and powerful than Apple iBooks Author in that it can format and output documents for many different purposes. Apple iBooks Author, of course, has only one purpose and only one output format for viewing ebooks on only one device.

02-03-2012, 03:26 AM

I have InDesign and its workflow is akin to the old Pagemaker or Quark. The innovation that Apple appears to be making with their new tool is that it's a tool that does not require a degree in design to produce nice output and with media support to boot (in its proprietary format). InDesign would really be overkill for most teachers and business people. The learning curve is prohibitive.

Apple recognizes there is a use for targetted ebooks, whether for a classroom, business training, church groups, etc. But it looks like only Apple is providing tools aimed at a general audience.

Apple always has an eye on supporting its hardware sales. Good for them. But you overstate when you say it supports only one output format. It has a default format but includes support for other formats including pdf (I believe without the media)--not as desirable as standard epub, but not a horrible alternative. So output is not as locked in as one would imagine for software that is free.

What would a comparable workflow be on a windows machine?
Word processors such as MS Word are not great at formatting longer documents and printing them to pdf often leads to unexpected formatting in the PDF. Images shift, text breaks in odd places, fonts in fields will change, formatting and page numbers in sections will change, etc. I haven't updated Word since 2003 so I don't know if it now allows saving to directly epub format. If it does not, how hard could this be given that MS Word format is based on xml? Pessimistically, I don't see Microsoft ever dedicating its resources to fixing the wysiwyg and unpredictable output issues. Their implementation of "sections" is terrible. To create a decent looking epub using Word as a starting point is a world of hurt. Is there a better word processor for handling formatting issues?

But at least windows programs can print to pdf. To edit formatting in PDF, users can go to Acrobat Professional or similar products. Not free and Adobe's product is very expensive. Again to fix formatting issues, the expectation is that you edit the pdf format code. Early reviews of the Apple software say their authoring tool's ui, its ease of importing assets such as keynote files, etc., are much more elegant than Windows word processors and pdf editors and yet is sufficiently powerful for the majority of users to produce an ebook.

To run Apple's software, you need an Apple computer. This was the prompt for my original post: Is there a comparable epub authoring tool for Windows? Is there an equivalent alternative?

The answer appears to be "no."

At the high end, there's InDesign which is a great and evolving product but its not comparable in terms of cost and its not user-friendly. Its a professional tool, while Apple is shooting for a much broader audience. At the low-end, there's Sigil, which is geared towards xml coders. Free and admirably produced by its dedicated author but not comparable. Jason Snell of MacWorld dubbed its interface recently as "godawful". Most of the free tools on windows are aimed at coders, and Apple again seems to be aiming for a broader audience by producing better designed software.

Scrivener for Windows is limited but, only recently out of beta, I'm liking it the most for creating epubs. Very nice as a composition tool and it outputs to epub. You do not need to juggle multiple programs to correct formatting problems. Handling separate parts of a book is head and shoulders better than Sigil. The epubs look good and you can futz with the format code. At 40 bucks, its not free but it's a real bargain. It's not as powerful as Apple's authoring software by all reports but it is the most direct route from text to ebook that I'm aware of on the Windows platform. It makes it simple to add Cover art, metadata, etc., during the export to epub procedure.

Apple's recent media event has shown that there is a gaping hole among the current line-up of Windows epub authoring tools. Even without Apple's proprietary multimedia extensions, there is nothing comparable to an easy to use text-to-epub tool for Windows.

02-04-2012, 07:21 PM
Thanks for mentioning Scrivener. I have built a page for it on our wiki. There is quite a bit of information on authoring software on our wiki by the way.