Apple just made it redonkulously easy to put your alumni magazine on the iPad

overview_buckets_publishersApple just made it redonkulously easy to put your alumni magazine on the iPad – and best of all, they did it for free.

First, let me back up a second.

I’ve been getting a lot of calls and emails lately from vendors wanting to make me an app version of my University’s alumni magazine. The magazine apps I’ve seen have been mostly flip-book PDF style apps and they’re expensive to create and maintain.

While driving home in the snow last night, I had a realization. Yesterday, Apple released new software called iBooks Author, free software that will allow people to create multimedia rich books that can be read in the free iBooks app on the iPad.

The light went off. While Apple is aiming this at textbook authors and publishers, there’s no reason we can’t easily create rich multimedia versions of our college magazines using it.

So, last night, I did it. I downloaded iBooks Author and in 15 minutes had a story laid out including photos, an interactive slide show and dynamic image with hot spots and text.

The application is super simple to use, easier than Word, and creating the dynamic elements is very easy. Here’s the interface, I had a few extra guides turned on.


As you work, you can preview your work on an actual iPad, if you have one. You connect it, and a proof shows up in your iBooks 2 app. You can then scroll through the pages in the real app, interact with the elements, highlight, take notes and so on.

This just changed the game.

I made an iBook in half an hour. Imagine if I spent an hour on it.

If I’m not charging for my magazine iBook, and I imagine many institutions wouldn’t, you can distribute the file on your website. If you want to sell it, you’ve got to go through Apple (and they’ll take their 30% cut, thank you very much.)

iBooks Author requires a Mac running OS 10.7.

While meant for K-12 and textbooks, I think they’ve given us higher ed folks a nice present as well.

11 thoughts on “Apple just made it redonkulously easy to put your alumni magazine on the iPad”

  1. The only problem is if you are an organization that charges for your magazine, in which case you are completely locked into iBooks. If it’s free, and you want it on other platforms, you can only export as text or PDF, unless you want to take the additional time to reprocess Apple’s proprietary ePub format into a more compatible version (and lose all the fancy Apple features in the process). If you’re producing for print, you don’t need this to make the PDF version. The result? This is just an additional layer of work in an environment that for many places doesn’t have the time. I also don’t use a Mac, so there’s that too, and I wouldn’t trust our print designers to do something like this.

    I think in the case of something like this, an eBook version of our magazines is the answer to a question no one is asking. If you want the magazine digital and portable, I have a hard time seeing the advantage of eBook over a good (possibly mobile) website, aside from offline availability (and even then…). For us at least, our target demographic is decidedly older and less tech savvy than the public at large. Could you argue that this might broaden the appeal? Sure, until they read it once and realize the content isn’t aimed at them. I hate sounding like I’m poo-pooing the idea, but I definitely need to see some cost/benefit studies done on it before I’d jump in.

    In the end, I just see there being a difficult road to making this more useful than a really good web version of a magazine. But numbers could always prove me wrong in the end, and I will be interested to hear how yours goes.

  2. I think I’ve been getting messages from many of the same vendors recently. We’re thinking about how an iPad version of the alumni magazine might play out. But we’re also thinking about how it would work with enrollment materials like a viewbook, admissions magazine, or other publication.

    This is certainly a great way to dip your toes in the water and do some testing for little to no cost and with no contracts. I agree with Michael that it’s yet another task to add to the pile, but I like to take an experimental mindset and try new things every now and then – providing the cost is very low and it can be measured properly.

    I’m not sold on the idea of publishing institutional magazines on the iPad yet. I’m not sure how many high school students have them, and how tech savvy and/or interested the alumni audience is. There could certainly be a niche audience, but what’s the ROI on that group?

    Great idea though. Can’t believe I didn’t think of it after reading the product announcement.

  3. I’m looking forward to dipping a tie into it. I doubt much of our audience (small rural community college) will be using their iPads for such things, but the possibility itself is worthwhile enough that we’d like to try it in the fall.

  4. I too have received some vendor calls and have published our magazine for the ipad with one vendor for two issues. I am wondering what program you started from to publish your ibook and how many pages the ibook was that you created in one hour. 15 minutes to lay out one story is way too long for me — I already am stretched and would have to farm this out either way.

    1. Renna, I used Apple’s free iBooks Authoring program. It took me 15minutes, but I chalk that up to having never used the program before. Now that I’m used to it, I could layout pages much faster.

  5. Great use case for quick iPad magazine publishing! Agree with Erik that this is a great testing platform to gauge potential iPad magazine reader adoption. The exorbitantly high costs of many tablet publishing software packages has created a perception that all this iPad magazine app business is overpriced (most of it is, think web design and CMS costs a la the 90’s).

    The one theme we’ve found to be consistent in how a college decides to introduce a magazine app is by starting with the why. Naturally that’s to keep the connection between the candidate/constituent/donor and institution alive, using all the relevant channels. From a magazine app perspective, we are closely following the “holistic approach” – one that strongly leverages the institution’s brand, the app, digital magazines and social media in one content experience for the reader.

  6. No sé, no sé… Mi eienripecxa de lectura en iPhone/iPod Touch es muy buena. Se agradece (o lo agradece un présbita como yo) la clara definición de las letras y el contraste entre signo y fondo.

  7. I need a help. Do you know to explain how to export my book? ..Do i have to pay and  one month to apple accept my book? Cuz i’ve tried to publish but it didnt work! i dont know what else i should do besides to have an account on apple store. Thanks!!

  8. I like the idea of “Blank University Press” as a Newsstand App in which the university can offer digital versions of a number of publications from recruitment to alumnae, etc.

    The advantages are that the reading experience is that of a “magazine” with good usability and offline availability. Add to that the issue of discoverability, and there is a good case to be made for going into Apple Newsstand. I have been amazed by some of the numbers: triple digit subscription growth (downloads for you) for many publishers including Conde Nast – up 250% after Newsstand launched, and the Economist – 20% of their total sales are for back issues. So you have readership and use for both catalog and current content, which is a good fit for universities.

    Disclosure: We are a vendor, but we don’t charge anything on the front end – not to build the app store or populate it with content. We get paid by sale or download and we keep the fees small. There are some advantages to “free” on the Newsstand too — mainly that Apple doesn’t charge free publications for access to the distribution channel. Your costs are download fees, but we buy in bulk and have the lowest rates, so it’s not more than $.30 per download — comparable to other distribution methods and arguably worth it to put content in the readers hand in the way they want it. We’re Brainiac Publishing and you can visit us at if this sounds interesting.

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