Today, at their annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), Apple announced that its iBooks app (and all the books sold through the iBookstore, including fixed-format and reflowable epubs and iBooks Author publications) would finally be available on desktop computers. Not PC desktops mind you, just Mac OS devices, but I guess it’s something and at least some folks believe it’s an exciting update to rejoice over. To me though, given how long it took Apple to expand iBooks to its own computers, it feels more of a defensive move by a reluctant company. I mean, why now? Perhaps to forestall a rising tide of digital publications that I believe will prove increasingly competitive to the carefully tended, private ecosystem surrounding iBooks: browser-based html5 books.
When made properly, browser-based digital publications can offer a highly immersive and interactive reading experiences that, with the help of responsive web design, can also work on any device with a modern web browser. For a company that has made a fortune controlling the simplified creation and distribution of beautiful digital content, web books that function as well or better, are as easy to make, and can be viewed on more devices, have got to be a little worrisome.
There are already many examples of these kind of publications out there, and an increasing number of tools you can use to make them, but there are a half-dozen that have come to my attention recently and that I have collected below. In fact, I’d started writing this post before Apple made their announcement this morning suggesting, to me at least, that the writing is already on the wall.