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February 6, 2012 / davebirss

The Apple iBooks nightmare

This is what I wanted to do to my iPad. Fortunately, I showed some restraint.

Following on from my last blog post, the situation with Apple’s iBooks Author hasn’t got any better.

I’d set myself the challenge of writing and publishing a book in under a week. I succeeded in writing the book in five days. I hardly slept during the process. And spent an unfortunately high proportion of my time looking at a spinning beachball on screen. So when I completed the book, I couldn’t wait to hit the magical upload button.

But that was just the start of the problems.

This follows on from last week’s post.

I’ve decided to go with an aggregator

The first option of registering for US tax seemed too scary for me. So I went for the alternative.

I had a look at the European Apple-approved aggregators and decided not to go with either of them. One site was just in German and the other was a French site with bad spelling. Not a good sign when we’re talking about literature! So I looked at the US options and plumped for Lulu.

There were a couple of reasons for this:

– I’d used them before and had a good experience

– They would also allow me to easily create a printed version of the book.

They also said that they could convert your print-ready book design into an ePub format. That seemed like a bonus to me. I’d been flummoxed by the ePub format and anything that handled it for me would be most welcome.

Now it was down to some more work

Designing for print

Once I’d chosen the dimensions for my Lulu book, I went to Pages and created a document template. I’ve done a bit of design in my past, so that wasn’t too hard. I wanted something quite classic and easy to read, so I chose my font and set my gutters respectively.

I then had to copy the text from a PDF version of the iBook and paste it into my Pages template. This was a lot fiddlier than I had hoped. I also had to go through the text and remove any reference to interactive stuff. Then I exported it as a PDF. Arduous but pretty trouble free.

Next I had to create my cover design. I used Pixelmator (an affordable Photoshop alternative) to put that together according to the given specifications. However, when I uploaded it, Lulu knocked off a few millimeters around the edges for bleed. That’s pretty expected. But it wasn’t mentioned in the specifications and I had to guess that it was about 5mm all round. I rejigged my cover design accordingly.

Once the cover was uploaded I just had to decide on the price. One of the great things about Lulu us that it can sell your stuff on other places, like Amazon. However, if you do that, the money you make drops dramatically. So I’ll be directing all online book sales to Lulu – even although it’s not got as much literary kudos.

What about ePub?

So at this point I look for the options to add the ePub version. There are none. Hmmmm.

So I had to create a new project using the eBook wizard. And that meant I needed a different ISBN. Which, in turn, meant that I had to go back and update the book with the details, re-export it and upload it all over again.

I eventually tracked down the ePub creator. And it didn’t work for me. It works with Word docs and stuff – not Pages files or PDFs. Bugger!

I scratched my head. I spent some quality time with Google. And I eventually found that Pages has an ‘export as ePub’ option. I never realised it was right there in front of my face!

Yay! Let’s try that!

Oh balls! It doesn’t work. And it recommends I download a best practice template to base it on.

Helpful. But annoying.

So I had to create yet another Pages document, importing all of the text all over again into a new ePub-friendly template.

After a couple of hiccups I got it to export.

I email the sparkly new ePub file to my iPhone for a quick preview and … holy shit! What a mess! It looks absolutely nothing like I intended.

There began hours of tinkering, exporting, previewing, swearing, rinsing and repeating.

And still there was no way of getting my pretty front cover attached to it properly.

My potty mouth was something to behold.

I hacked a workaround by importing the file into Calibre, editing the metadata and uploading a new cover image from there.

This meant an even larger loop of work for every iteration.

I eventually got my ePub into a state where it didn’t embarrass me too much.

I uploaded it to Lulu and set the price.

And now to uploading the interactive iBook

There! As far as I was concerned, I had fulfilled the obligations. I had found an aggregator. I had given them a valid ePub file. I was now ready to upload my iBook.

But wait!

It seems that Lulu don’t do that. Or any of the other aggregators.

What the blithering heck?!

I’ve just been down Apple’s recommended alternative route to discover that it isn’t an alternative route at all?

I’ve been duped!

I’ve done all of this work and found myself no closer.

I’ve asked Lulu. And I’m still waiting for a response.

Apple don’t even let you ask them. They direct you to a forum. So I asked the question there and got a lovely, helpful response. It seems that I’m not the only one with this issue. Take a look at this forum thread, if you dare:

Bob almighty!

If I want to sell the interactive iBook I’ve worked so %#$@ing hard on, I have no choice but to register for a US Tax ID. And that may mean that I have to do US Tax Returns as well as British ones. And the process could take weeks or months before I can get the book into the iBooks store.

So for now

The book will be available very soon.

Just not as an interactive iBook.

It will be available as an eBook in the iBook store – and lots of other stores –  and also as a glorious printed version.

I may also release an audiobook of it next month.

But the one piece of brilliance that I wanted to give to the world will be mouldering on my hard-drive for a little while longer.

Possibly for ever.

And my love/hate relationship with Apple grows a little more sour by the minute.


Leave a Comment
  1. Big App / Feb 6 2012 3:48 pm

    Hi Dave,

    I’ve got an account which I’ve used to upload an interactive book via.

    If you wanted to upload it for a trial period so see how well it does then we can work something out rather than have it sat on your hard disk going nowhere.

    Let me know

  2. yasminselena / Feb 6 2012 5:36 pm

    That sounds positively heinous! I’m shocked they’ve got no direct customer support, who can be held accountable when you run into trouble after you’ve invested all that trust in their software!!
    All writers appreciate how hard it is to write a book and the idea of not seeing your vision in print or on screen as you intended, bloody hell I’d have a meltdown.
    I’m really grateful you’ve shared all this. I’m also excited for you that you’ve achieved this : ) Well done you for your persistence.

  3. ritzeng / May 22 2012 9:33 pm

    You can proceed to go through the IRS to get a taxpayer no or you produce the book via my account, e.g. if you reside in the EU. eMail to .

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