The iPad Project - Paper is Heavy, but eBooks weigh me down.

I've stopped putting the day count on these posts because I can no longer remember.

One of the common snarks against this project goes like this:

Um, I think Speirs has been fooled by teh new shiny toy. A netbook can do everything an iPad can and more for half the price. Speirs is clearly ignorant of the latest developments.

The answer of course is that I, like my friend John Gruber, am secretly in the pay of Apple.

...sorry, I'm a little punchy tonight. Overtired.

One of the things that we all care about is helping children to engage with reading. We hope to make a lot of use of electronic books - particularly in English where the classic texts are available free or very cheaply. This is one area where an iPad trounces a netbook.

From a deployment point of view, iBooks is a bit more complex than deploying apps. Let me explain.

Deploying the iBooks application itself is no more difficult than any other application. Additionally, iTunes Home Sharing is also "book aware" - new books will be synced across the shares just as apps are.

The question is: how do you get an iBooks ePub file into your master iTunes library when you can't buy and download an iBook directly in iTunes on Mac OS X?

Think about it: you cannot browse or buy an iBook from a Mac OS X machine. You need an iPad to acquire an iBook file. What are you gonna do? On top of that, remember that there are three iTunes accounts in play here so, if I want to distribute an iBook to the entire school, I need to buy it under three accounts.

For apps, I'm running three user accounts on my Mac mini, logging in as each and clicking "Buy" in iTunes. For iBooks - not so simple.

Solution The First: one "purchasing iPad" per account

The simplest solution is to have one iPad for each account that is used to purchase iBooks. This iPad then needs to be synced to some iTunes account that will be Home Share'ed from in order to get the file out to other users.

This will work for our Primary school, where each library looks at all the others. I can just ask one of the teachers to buy the book on someone's iPad, sync it, and the file will make its way into all the other libraries.

For secondary, it's not so simple. I will need one iPad that I use to buy iBooks on. I'll then sync it to my master computer. That will put the file into the master library and then everyone else will get it. The big downside is that you need a dedicated iPad just to do this. In fact, you need two dedicated iPads - one for each account.

Solution The Second: one iPad, re-authorised for different accounts

Turns out that this solution simply doesn't work or, rather, doesn't work simply. The iBooks store is a wee bit smarter than the App Store. If a book is installed in the library on that device, the "BUY NOW" button becomes a disabled "DOWNLOADED" button, so you can't get it again.

What you need to do here is:

  • Authorise the iPad for iTunes account A
  • Download the book
  • Sync to account A on the computer.
  • Sync the iPad to account B on the computer, breaking the link with account A
  • Delete the book from the device's library (to enable the Download button)
  • Download the book again
  • Sync it back to account B
  • Sync the iPad to account C, breaking the link with B
  • Delete the book from the device's library (to enable the Download button)
  • Download the book again
  • Sync it back to account C

Cripes! It's not easy or fun but at least there are no new rules for DRM on books. They behave the same way as apps.

Of course, if you follow me on Twitter, you'll know that I've been critical of the selection in iBooks and, more particularly, the price. I cannot, at the moment, see us spending a lot of money in the iBooks store.

I've also been asked to look into Kindle books. Haven't had time yet but that's on the horizon too.