Lights, Camera, Capture! iPad Multimedia eBook App

As much as I enjoy reading ebooks using either one of Amazon’s Kindle ebook reader apps or an actual Kindle, the experience of reading a reference book on any of those platforms is not quite what I want. Wiley, well known publisher of reference books of all types, partnered with Inkling, a developer of interactive textbooks, to publish a $9.99 iPad interactive ebook app on the topic of photographic lighting. The app, with just 34 ratings, has a solid average customer rating so far (4.5 stars out of a possible 5). So, I installed the massive 328MB app and took a look at it over the weekend.

Lights, Camera, Capture!

One aspect of this ebook app I learned to appreciate was its easy access to the table of contents and simple navigation to specific sections of the book.

Inkling chose not to adopt the conventional horizontal swiping gesture to move from page to page. Up and down arrows at the top of the page replaces the swiping convention. This is a bit annoying when reading the book in portrait mode. I recommend reading the book in landscape mode because, as you can see in the second screen capture, the list of items in the current chapter is revealed in a side bar in this orientation. This makes moving to another section simple and intuitive. Tapping the arrow icon in a photo example brings up the photo and longer form caption in a new page. The photos can be resized (enlarged) in this dedicated page view mode for studying a photo in detail.

Short video segments are also associated with each photo example. Note that these video clips are downloaded from the Internet. So, you will need 3G or WiFi network access. Given the size of most video clips, I recommend viewing these videos when connected to WiFi. The video clips are relatively low resolution. This does not detract from their instructional value. However, it may be distracting to iPad users who commonly view relatively high resolution videos when using services such as YouTube and Netflix. On the positive side, the book’s video clips are much smaller than they would be in HD which allows them to load faster and be viewed relatively quickly after moving from a book’s page to the view clip viewing mode.

The book’s content is most useful to people who use DSLR (Digital Single Reflex Cameras). However, people like me with relatively high-end point and shoot cameras with good manual settings (think Canon G series cameras as an example) can also gain a lot from this book.

My recommendation and request to Wiley and Inkling is to move away from the book-in-an-app model and, instead, create an interactive ebook platform that provides all of these features that reduces app clutter and introduces ebook management. Amazon’s Kindle app, for example, lets you archive ebooks that can be later retrieved when the need arises. Inkling has made a good start in moving beyond the conventional book-to-ebook translation. But, it is just a start. I’m looking forward to even better reference ebook experiences in the future.

Full disclosure: Wiley provided a complentary evaluation copy of the app for this commentary.