From encyclopedia to iBook and beyond

Late last year we published our first iBook and it’s available (for free) here in the iTunes store. It’s a small step for us but one that represents our current attempts to explore and experiment with new forms of digital publishing beyond our (traditional?) websites.

The cover of our Roadside Stories iBook

The cover of our Roadside Stories iBook

The content we used for this iBook, which is able to include images and multimedia as well as just text, was taken from our series of stories about New Zealand, Roadside Stories. These were produced as part of our contribution to the Rugby World Cup in 2011, and feature 140 stories from along the main highways up and down the country. In a similarly experimental vein, the Roadside Stories series was the first time we really thought about content as having a life that wasn’t restricted to one website. Instead we created the content and then found as many places as possible to publish it.

In creating the Roadside Stories, we started with stories and created the audio, then added images to create YouTube videos, then mapped it all to Google Maps as well as creating an iPhone app (and later an Android app) using MyTours. And only then did we start embedding the videos onto websites. It looks a bit like this:

What we did with Roadside Stories

What we did with Roadside Stories

From there it became a fairly straightforward matter to create an iBook using a couple of the Roadside Stories tours, namely the routes from Christchurch to Invercargill and then Invercargill to Queenstown. The iBook combines audio of the stories with short introductory text and maps, as well as a full slide show of images. To round it out we’ve included additional text (lifted from Te Ara and NZHistory) and links to our websites for more information about the places.

Contents page for the Christchurch-to-Invercargill tour

Contents page for the Christchurch-to-Invercargill tour

The Mount Cook story

The Mount Cook story

Again, we’re starting to see our Manatū Taonga – Ministry for Culture and Heritage websites as a collection of content in itself, rather than separate silos, and as a rich source that can be recombined in new forms and formats. More than that, we’re hoping to extend that thinking to include a much wider range of sites from across New Zealand’s rich and varied online cultural world.

So where to next? The iBook is an experiment and we’d love your feedback on it and thoughts on whether this is the sort of content and format that you’re interested in seeing more of. We’ve included a link to a survey at the end of the book, or you can leave a comment here.

Some readers will question why we produced an iBook that can only be read on an iPad, and it’s a fair question. It’s a pragmatic approach really: iAuthor, the software that produces iBooks, made it simple to produce something beautiful.

We’re eagerly awaiting developments with the platform-neutral epub format as it starts to support more of the features that appear in iBooks, and will be realeasing a few experimental ebooks soon. In the meantime, those of you with an iPad, have a play with the results of our foray into the world of ebooks, iBooks, digital books – call them what you will – and let us know what you think.

2 comments have been added so far

  1. Comment made by Meredith Ross || February 13th, 2013

    I enjoyed this, thanks. Lovely clear format and a v pleasant way to navigate through Te Ara resources. Must have a play with iAuthor!

  2. Comment made by Ross || February 20th, 2013

    And wouldn’t it be great if users could pick items from the huge menu of content that Te Ara and NZHistory.net offer their users and recombine these items from the smorgasbord in their own eBook or other digital output - or even a PDF?
    It would be great to pick up on the COPE (Create Once, Publish Everywhere) paradigm offered by Karen McGrane at Webstock last week…

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