Guest Post: Multi-touch iBooks and ‘The Sword of Air’ by R.J. Madigan

I was so intrigued by R.J. Madigan’s experimentation with new innovations in iBook formatting that I requested a Guest Post about the subject for my own blog as I believe this will be of interest to many of my readers, as well.

The Sword of Air – Punk publishing at it’s best, pushing the medium
to create something new

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Visibility is the indie author’s enemy and with new titles being published every day it is getting harder and harder to stand out in such a crowded market place. This is why I decided to publish my first Young Adult Fantasy novel The Sword of Air as an iBook. With world-building creative options like music HD video, 3D modelling and photography to colour my story I was able to create a book unlike anything else on the market.

View the book trailer here.

Sales of printed books are falling every year and the sales of eBooks are rising. I believe we are on the edge of a paradigm of change in the way people consume their stories. I think this change is even more evident in children and young people today. Brought up with broadband wireless and touchscreen technology they expect everything to be linked to the greater hive mind that is the internet and something that isn’t interactive is almost bizarre to them.

There is a lot of ignorance surrounding iBooks with some people viewing them as a form of media that discourages readers to use their imagination. This is an assumption I’d challenge as an iBook is very similar to the interactive whiteboards teachers now use in the classroom instead of the old style blackboard and chalk. iBooks are a modern form of books like Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit. But instead of the illustrations being one dimensional they move and are accompanied by sound. If anything iBooks encourage readers to be even more imaginative. The Sword of Air, is an epic fantasy story with a large cast of characters and multiple location changes. It’s much easier to follow this story with the interactive character map I’ve created that appears at the end of each chapter.

1-Screen Shot 2014-12-21 at 16.36.32 In Isaac Asimov’s short story Robbie, and Neil Stephenson’s The Diamond Age, both writers envisaged a world where books were more than just print. They came alive and talked to you, reacted and interacted with you. That world is now with the iPad, bringing science fiction into reality. I wanted to use this technology for my own storytelling.

Apple has given everyone the iBooks author software for free because they have a very forward-thinking strategy towards their users. This software enabled me to take my story and illustrate it in a way that isn’t possible in normal printed books. Music, HD video, 3D modelling and photography gives my readers a much more visceral experience rather than just being told about events that unfold in the course of the story. iBooks provide a sensory experience encouraging the reader’s imagination to work even harder.

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Interestingly in the 2011 London riots one of the only shops not to be looted was Waterstones, which says a lot about how young people now value books. Surely if this new technology best described as “eBooks meets movies” gets more young people interested in reading again then that must be a good thing? Don’t get me wrong I love printed books as much as you do and own many beautiful editions but why should books just be pages of printed text and not more interactive? The technological tide is rising and taking all of us with it.

Of course there are barriers with any new technology. Producing an iBook unlike anything else on the market hasn’t been an easy journey. Firstly the technology is so new and cutting edge that it is only currently available for iPad or Mac. If you don’t own either of these devices then you can’t read The Sword of Air. As a writer this has been incredibly frustrating for me me because I know readers have been disappointed because they are unable to access my book. It has also caused problems in the marketing stage of the publishing process. I have lost out on reviews because people willing to do so did not own an iPad or Mac.

Secondly despite the book being unlike anything else on the market it can be hard to make it visible because I can’t publish on Amazon or similar platforms. I have to use the iBooks store.

5-Screen Shot 2014-12-21 at 16.25.18 However I think one of the big barriers for authors considering publishing their work as an iBook is the steep learning curve involved in the use of the iBooks Author software. This technology is not orientated toward casual consumer users like Word. It requires concerted effort to master. I teamed up with a computer whizz known as ‘The Producer,’ to get the book I wanted out of iBooks Author. This is why despite the interest in iBooks, authors are not yet taking advantage of all this software can offer for their storytelling.

Another challenge has been trying to explain to readers exactly what an iBook is. The worst assumption I’ve read with regards to iBooks so far is ‘Netflix on a tablet.’ If you download the free sample of The Sword of Air, from the iBooks store, you’ll see this assumption couldn’t be more wrong.

Producing an iBook requires you to source media, photos, music, video and even 3D models. My partner in making the iBook, ‘The Producer,’ is a great photographer and was able to contribute some stunning photography as part of his involvement. The music, the video etc., has to be licensed therefore you have to be prepared to pay upfront costs. This is a challenge but realistically these days, creating a bestselling book without investing money up front is very unlikely.

At its heart though a story is all about the writing. The technology only supports it. The Sword of Air, is an epic fantasy story set in an altered reality of medieval Ireland. Sixteen-year-old Niamh Kelly’s village is burnt to the ground by the Raven Queen’s Fomor army and her adoptive grandmother is brutally murdered right in front of her. She is forced to flee into the forest of the Nadur with only an old storyteller, her best friend Rauri and his wolfhound Bran for protection. Hunted by the Raven Queen, the brutal ruler of Ireland, and her armies, Niamh desperately searches for the forgotten Fae people to help her. She must find allies and the power within herself if she is to survive against the dark powers of the Raven Queen.


Sneak preview inside The Sword of Air

Characters such as the beautiful but merciless Raven Queen, and unforgiving King of the dwarves- Abcan, spring from the page with hundreds of beautiful photographs, that go full screen at the tap of a finger. Sound effects put you inside the action instead of your just being told about it. The cinematic soundtrack adds another layer, telling the story and giving depth to the characters as the book progresses. Short movies built into the story put you inside the characters’ heads, let you see what they see and feel their emotions.

End movie for chapter 1

iBooks Author allowed me to build the character map for The Sword of Air. An interactive guide for the reader. As they come into the story each character and location is described at the end of each chapter. A fantastic feature for a high fantasy book with a large cast and multiple location changes.

If you have the patience and determination to master iBooks Author then there is so much you can do with the software to make your book stand out from the crowd and literally wow readers.

2-Screen Shot 2014-12-21 at 16.54.58 I hope that you will love The Sword of Air, You may download the first three chapters free from the iBooks store to experience the exciting multi-touch features for yourself.

You can read Chapter 1 on Wattpad now and I’ll be releasing more soon. The Sword of Air, is new and exciting and I promise you won’t be able to put it down. Already gaining five-star reviews on Goodreads it’s punk publishing at its best. Pushing the boundaries of the medium to create something new and radical.

There are many challenges in putting together an iBook. But the total creative freedom is empowering and where would the fun or challenge be in just reproducing what is already out there. Despite all the challenges it has been one hell of a journey!

Once you’ve read The Sword of Air, I’d love to hear what you think of the story, the technology and how you think this storytelling medium will develop in the future.

3-Screen Shot 2014-12-21 at 16.24.36 You can follow the progress of
The Sword of Air
on my blog
or Facebook
or Pinterest

Read Chapter 1 on Wattpad

Download The Sword of Air,
at Apple iTunes

21 responses

  1. […] read Madigan’s post on the thrill and challenges of publishing an iBook.  Such worthwhile information about publishing through iBook […]

  2. Reblogged this on Ms M's Bookshelf and commented:
    This is the most amazing technological advance in ebooks imaginable. I complained recently that reading ebooks was boring — that many of them have no pictures. Make sure you click on the links and see exactly what is now possible in making books come alive. Enjoy my Sunday reblog.

    1. Thank you for reblogging!

      1. Thank you so much for the reblog. Best wishes Rae.

  3. I am absolutely fascinated with this. I’ll have to wait till my sister gets back from vacation and pull this up on her Ipad since I only have a Nook and PC. I can’t wait to find out more about this and see it in action. It looks like a dream come true to me. I also see a Red Panda in there, so that’s always exciting for me.

    1. I remember that in 2012 my eBook formatter showed me an example on her iPad of what had been done with a children’s illustrated book and it was breathtaking then. I can’t begin to imagine how this has improved since that time. After seeing that particular example, I thought the “i” in iBook stood for “interactive” but I guess it’s just Apple’s way of naming and identifying it’s own hardware and software.

      Please do comee back and let us know what you think when you’ve had a chance to test this.

      1. That wasn’t a book actually but an app called Moving Tales – there have been many others since – notably the 39 Steps which is almost more a game than a book. I think there will be a ton of potential in these new multimedia experiences but I think it is a mistake to call them books – we will need to find a better label.

  4. Reblogged this on Journey Taker and commented:
    Interesting look at the evolving nature of ebooks. Love the stylish way this book is presented and the bold use of new technology. I might even have to consider going with Apple or at least supplementing what I have already with an Apple product or two in order to take advantage of this.

    1. Thanks for commenting and reblogging! Please do let us know if you do try this on an Apple product.

  5. Reblogged this on Tricia Drammeh and commented:
    This is some fascinating information for authors. R.J. Madigan talks about iBooks. If you don’t know what an iBook is, read on…

  6. Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog and commented:
    AUTHORS – YOU have GOT to read this article – Well Done for getting this SCOOP Susan 😀

    1. Thanks for reblogging, Mr. Ape!

      1. Hi Chris,

        Thanks so much for reblogging my post on The Sword of Air. I have been following your blog for a while now and really enjoy your posts. Happy St Patricks Day to you! Rae

  7. Reblogged this on The Sword of Air and commented:
    Thank you to the wonderful Susan at ‘Books: Publishing, Reading, Writing for hosting a guest feature on ‘The Sword of Air.’ Read it here! Happy St Patrick’s Day to you all!

    1. I was very happy to post such an interesting and illuminating blog post, RJ!

  8. Thank you so much for the opportunity to feature on your blog Susan. The post looks fantastic. Happy St Patricks day! Rae

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