Book Creator for iPad (opens in new tab) is an app that allows you to place text, videos, audio and images in a book layout, which can be exported to read in iBooks or even sold in the iBookstore. It uses the ePub standard, so the books will even be compatible with other reading software, and will be supported in the future.
Over 1 million ebooks have been created using Book Creator for iPad since its launch in 2011, at a rate of 80,000 per week. In order to celebrate this and make the app even more accessible, the developers recently launched a free version.
The free version, which can be downloaded here (opens in new tab), contains all the same features as the full version but is limited to creating just one book. Users will be given the option to upgrade to the full version for $4.99 (£2.99) with an in-app purchase.
Book Creator is nowhere near as professional a tool as iBooks Author (opens in new tab), but that's okay. It’s a simpler, more beginner-friendly way of creating books, and one that carves out its own place.
It's at its best as a way for someone to just dabble with creating books, learning how to lay things out and collecting things they like. It can also be used for picture books, or something similarly focused on media, rather than text.
Though it ultimately lacks many of iBooks Author’s features, the principles are the same. You start off with blank pages (you can choose the kind of layout you want - portrait, landscape or square), and you fill them by choosing media or adding a text box.
Photos and videos can be selected from your Photo Library, while audio can be chosen from the collection of music on your device or recorded directly into the app.
Text is slightly different - you tap the button to create a new text box and then type or paste your words into the pane that appears - and it's here that you start to bump against the limitations of Book Creator. You can't completely control the size of text boxes, only their width, so the length is determined by how much text goes in them.
This means that you can't flow one piece of text between multiple boxes. If you put 2,000 words into one box, it'll simply stretch down off the bottom of the page. If you want to divide your words between columns, you’ll have to manually split the copy.
Book Creator doesn’t really pitch itself for this kind of professional layout, so it may seem we're being a little harsh. But the app actually does wander close to being professional in some areas, such as providing guides and a grid that boxes will snap to, and allowing boxes to be moved in front of or behind one another on the page. Granted, these are just ways to make it easier for beginners to lay things out precisely, but they stand in stark contrast to the omissions.
You can't, for example, style an individual word in a text box. You can make the whole box italic, but not singular words. There’s also no text wrapping around images, and no options such as drop shadows or colour gradients.
If you dig deeper, you can get around some omissions with creativity; for example, there's no simple option to make images or text boxes play sound when tapped, but you can turn an audio object invisible and place it on top of the other box to get the same effect.
It probably feels like we're being a bit down on Book Creator, but it's actually a testament to how good it is. We're only picking up on these omissions because what’s there is such a strong beginning - the foundation is there for it to be iBooks Author for iOS, even if it isn't at the moment.
Right now, it's really good for its target market of short-form words with plenty of images, and a bargain for the price. We've already got people in the office planning to use it with their kids, taking photos on a day out and then coming home to create picture books about where they went. That these books can then be read on so many devices - iPad, iPhone, PC, ereader and so on - is great.
Book Creator might not be a professional authoring tool, but it’s certainly a fun one, with a huge amount of potential.
- Price: $4.99 (£2.99)
- Works with: iPad
- App size: 24.1MB
- Developer: Red Jumper Studio (opens in new tab)
- Age rating: 4+
This review originally featured in Tap! Magazine issue 24