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.

Screen-Shot-2012-01-19-at-11.11.38-PM

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.

As we make our way down the long and winding road that is a redesign, one of our goals has been making our academic pages easier to both navigate to and find information on once you’re there. I don’t think I’m speaking out of school when I say this University has struggled with this in the past.

I really want clean pages with nice photography and the ability to get a quick overview of programs/majors, with the ability to learn more and dig deeper.

We often try to cram as much information into a main academic area page as possible. I would like to do a better job at informing prospective students of the strengths of our academic programs.

I found a great post at Neven Mrgan’s Tumblr about how three companies present their all-in-one computers: Apple, Dell and HP. Here’s a side by side comparison:

This is not just me being an Apple fanboy. Apple has made their iMac page clean, compartmentalized and easy to get key points at a glance. They’ve used several photos of the actual product, the top marketing points and made it easy to buy. The HP page on the right was probably sent through a myriad of committees then through the marketing wringer. The best they came up with is a small image (in Flash no less) and 4 tabs of information, with the main one including 18 bullet points. 18. If I gave you the 10 second test with both of these pages, you’d be more apt to remember more points from Apple’s page.

I would guess that many academic pages have “18 bullet points.” Maybe not bullet points, but a ton of information thrown on the index page because some felt it needed to be there.

Mr. Mrgan also makes one other very good point.

Look at the URL’s for each of these products:

Apple’s iMac page URL: http://www.apple.com/imac

HP’s 200xt computer page: http://www.shopping.hp.com/webapp/shopping/computer_can_series.do?storeName=computer_store&category=desktops&a1=Category&v1=All-in-One+PCs&series_name=200xt_series&jumpid=in_R329_prodexp/hhoslp/psg/desktops/All-in-One_PCs/200xt_series

Which one do you think you (and your users) would be able to enter if they were looking for a specific program or area? Clean URLs are a very good thing. Many CMSes do an OK job at creating user-friendly URLs, but often I come across a college site with URLs like college.edu/29592.xml. That doesn’t help a user.