Corona SDK for eBooks: Because education isn’t a Mac-only privilege

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Carlos Icaza, Ansca Mobile

If anyone in our business has been hiding under a rock today, or still recovering from all the SOPA/PIPA news yesterday, or are eagerly anticipating yet another presidential debate in South Carolina, then you probably missed Apple’s announcement about the new iBook Author tool — their foray into creating textbooks and interactive eBooks.

While I think that it’s a move which highlights the trend of migrating toward digital books (with today’s move by Apple as the official “trumpet” sound of said migration), I like to think of it as another tool in Apple’s arsenal to keep its iDevices ecosystem one step ahead of the competitors.

But in all honesty — of course, I’m extremely biased here — the biggest drawback to Apple’s new book publishing tool is its iOS-only gameplan. It comes as no surprise, but iBook Author totally annihilates the resulting “book” from being ported to other platforms, giving you (the content creator) a very limited reach and distribution. Certainly we can all agree to disagree and argue about iOS devices’ dominance and presence, but to limit your creation from running on other platforms and devices is certainly crippling.

And that is where Corona SDK is even more valuable today.

Apple signaled today that 2012 is all about digital textbooks and interactive learning. In the same vein, Corona has already been used to create some of the top interactive learning apps and top-grossing iBooks from independent developers. The best part? Those same books and apps also can go in the Android MarketplaceAmazon Appstore, and NOOK Apps shop — giving you far better reach and earning potential.

Be sure to check out Corona for eBooks.
After all, education should be a cross-platform privilege. 😉


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This entry has 20 replies

  1. Alex says:

    Don’t forget to mention that 16 eBooks in the Corona Showcase were made with Kwik ( The plugin for Corona allows people with non-techie skills (there are lots of developers using it too) to create their eBook apps directly from Photoshop.

  2. That is correct. Kwik is an outstanding Photoshop pluging for creating ebooks and elarning apps directly from Photoshop without any coding using our Corona SDK. Thanks Alex.

  3. Carlos Icaza says:

    The license agreement to Apple’s new iBooks Author tool for creating electronic textbooks has a very peculiar clause:

    If you charge a fee for any book or other work you generate using this software (a “Work”), you may only sell or distribute such Work through Apple (e.g., through the iBookstore) and such distribution will be subject to a separate agreement with Apple.

    – Ouch. Carlos

  4. Mohamed says:

    So, what does mean to Corona and Kwik? Can’t we use them for iBook creation?

  5. Mohamed yes you can use Corona to develop “ibook” or other cross platform books in a much simpler and cleaner set of tools than anything else I have come across. The apple iAuthor or i whatever you want to call it is another way for apple to ensure you publish with them first to increase their market share in the smartphone market as well as increase their profit margin when you sell on their market.

  6. Ceej says:

    Hi there,

    No. But that’s the advantage.

    Technically by the terms of the agreement if you distribute via iBooks you waive rights to distribute to any other platform. So using Corona you can distribute as an app to any of the supported platforms you choose, which is the point Carlos is making. Also you have the full technical capabilities of the SDK which mean you can create a truly interactive framework that supports pretty much anything you would like to code it to do.

    Best regards,


  7. PaulHMason says:

    My problem with a lot of ebook solutions is that they aren’t cross platform. iBook is iOS only, Corona is iOS and Android etc, but I like to be able to read my ebooks any pretty much any device that I own. It helps that most publishers (of technical books anyway) offer their books in multiple formats at no extra cost. I generally only go for books that are available as mobi and pdf since I’m pretty much guaranteed of having the Kindle software or a pdf reader on pretty much any platform.

    That said, I’m ignoring “interactive” books – in that instance I have to agree that Corona SDK is ideal (I no longer like Adobe, so I won’t say anything about Flash).

    Now if only Corona SDK could target Windows and MacOS…

  8. Tanya says:

    Can you please tell me when the Corona Ebook template will become available?

  9. Mike says:

    Corona and Kwik are viable tools for eBook creation for the Android platform BUT they do not hold a light to the “iBook Author” in terms of ease of use.

  10. Alex says:

    Kwik (and I don’t think Corono either) will not export to Apple’s eBook format anytime soon. More on that here:

  11. Jose says:

    I’m sorry Carlos, but I disagree with your premise here. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think there’s more than meets the eye on this one.

    Btw, there’s a great discussion on Google+ from Tim O’Reilly’s post on a post he calls “Apple’s Monopolistic Easter Egg”. Take a look if you can.

    Before we pass judgement, we should ask ourselves some other questions….

    My comment on Tim O’Reilly’s post:
    “I’m not surprised with this at all. As a matter of fact, any iOS developer is familiar with these types of terms. From Apple’s point of view, iBooks Author is the Xcode for iBooks. Should Apple be “examined” for protecting and maintaining its ecosystem and business model? Let’s extend this further… Should Google be blamed for not allowing any device manufacturer (or any third party for that matter) to include any Google app (Gmail, Maps, Navigation, etc.) unless the device has Android Market? Do Google, Apple or any other ecosystem company have an obligation to make the derivative “creation” (book, app, etc.) as a result of the use of their tools (iBooks Author, Xcode, Android SDK, Visual Studio) compatible with any other ecosystem? Should Hulu have the right to block users to consume their content on browsers that are viewed on screens larger than a smartphone or tablet (for example, Google TV)? I think there’s more fundamental questions here that are not been addressed.”

    Honestly, discussions like this at times make me think I live in multidimensional world that only I inhabit. As far as this issue is concerned, I ask myself:

    1) Why is it ok for Apple to have restrictions on XCode and the apps one can create, but not with books created with iBook Author? Is the intellectual property for an app any different than from a book? Is education the only area that matters?

    2) How many of the people complaining have used iBooks Author? Do they know that you can export the book to PDF and Text? Those 2 are pretty standard formats.

    3) Is this EULA misunderstood? Apple isn’t saying that the content of your book can’t be “sold” anywhere else or without their permission. They’re just saying that the encapsulated and formatted unit of work that was created with iBooks Author can’t.

    4) Is this a format discussion? Should Microsoft make MS Word files compatible with say… Corel or any other word processor? Should Adobe make Illustrator files and other proprietary tools compatible with competitors?

    5) Is this scrutiny because it’s dealing with education? Should companies like Google be castigated for even thinking to come back and operate in China with all its freedom of speech restrictions? Google at least pulled out, how about GM or any other company operating in China, should they be scrutinized for selling in a country that values basic human rights differently from ours?

    6) Is any software, hardware or service vendor on the “burn Apple” bandwagon over this issue a bit hypocritical? How many do exactly the same or worse with their software?

    7) Are we forgetting that the iPad also has other book apps such as Kindle from Amazon that sells books? Aren’t there other ways to get books that are not via the iBookstore?

    As I said in my original comment, there’s a lot of issues not really been addressed here. A lot of fundamental questions are or should be up for discussion.

  12. Alex says:

    Mike, I believe iBooks Author and Kwik+Corona have different targeting audiences. While the first seems to be easier to use, it will require learning to be mastered. This is the same with Kwik, the more you use the more you get.

    Although Author will get more attention of non-technie users, the possibility of creating things that cannot be possible with Apple’s tool (games, deeper interactivity and so on) are not going to change very much the user base of Corona.

  13. XenonBL says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but “ebooks” created using Corona are still technically apps and would be found and sold on app stores, not ebookstores. There are several popular formats for publishing ebooks on various platforms, such as .pdf, .epub, .mobi, etc., (Apple’s iBook publisher outputs some kind of proprietary format similar to .epub), none of which are output by Corona.

    The advantage to developers of being able to create “real” ebooks is that people tend to pay real book prices for them (say, $14.99), but only pay app prices for app type ebooks (say, $1.99). Frustrating, but a current market reality. It would be cool, though I suspect difficult to achieve, if Corona could export ePub files as an option. Maybe a limited subset of Corona’s features could be released as a separate tool to create true ebooks.

    Now, app type ebooks are great, and something Corona is well suited for (could be made even better with 2.5 D graphics for real page curl effects). But it’s important to know the difference in the markets and use the right tool for the job.

  14. XenonBL says:

    I meant Apple’s iBooks Author above, not iBook publisher.

  15. Alex says:

    XenonBL, ePUB format is basically a set of HTML/CSS on steroids. The reason Kwik (and probably Corona) does not export for this format is the fact there are SO MANY free tools for this that makes no sense to create a totally new engine to convert Lua to ePub. Also, even ePub3 standards are not real standard (meaning what may work on Kindle may not work on the iPad, and so on). In sum, to much work for a “free” market.

  16. Not just that, Apple introduced a bunch of new tags to the ePub format which are still yet to be approved as standard therefore, the resulting ePub from iBook Author, those tags, will most likely not be read by Nook, Adobe, etc.

    If you break apart a ePub from Nook, you will see that it is not interactive at all. Only page swiping and some “cosmetic” features.

    The resulting book is a wrapper to xml/html/css – the export is a PDF or text. Hardly interactive at all.


  17. Sergei izny says:

    iBooks and Interactive books apps are 2 different species.
    yes you still can create books with Corona and kwik, but they wont be in Apple iBook anyway, they will be standalone apps. Apple just imposed another control over its own books marketplace. its totally different markets and as someone mentioned – diffrent prices.
    by the way: to publish your own ebook you need an ISBN which going to cost you $125 for one number or $250 for bulk of 10. And you need unique ISBNs for Apple, Android, Amazon, etc.
    So stick with kwik/corona and you dont need any ISBN at all.
    Only disadvantage is: when iPeople looking for the books they look in Bookstore not on Appstore….

  18. XenonBL says:

    Aside from the game I’m making using Corona I have two ebook projects in the works.

    One is an children’s picture book with lots of animation, sound effects, and interactivity and very little text. Corona is perfect for building that type of ebook. It would be sold in App stores for at most $2.99.

    The other ebook project is a chapter book. It’s about 200 pages of text plus 15 black and white illustrations. No interactivity is needed save a high quality page turn effect. I suppose I could also use Corona to build it, but the result would be an App. Instead I am using a different tool that builds epub files cross platform for Kindle Fire, Kindle, Nook, iBook, and a few other readers. It would be found on ebook stores, not app stores, for $6-$10.

    I would NOT use apple’s iBook Author for either book simply because it is not cross platform. It also doesn’t support the kind of interactivity my first book project requires.

    But for my 2nd book project I would not use Corona simply because it gets me in the wrong marketplace. It would also be like trying to build a camp fire with a tree, a can of gasoline, and a stick of dynamite.

    The latest epub standard supports interactivity via Javascript, HTML5, and CSS3. Check out the (free) Beatles Yellow Submarine on the iBook store to see an amazing epub book using Javascript for so much interactivity it must be an App (but it’s not).

    There are already tools available for building cross platform epub ebooks. The epub standard, while fragmented, is beginning to support features that were once only the realm of apps. I would LOVE it if Corona could be the one tool I need to build both apps and all types of ebooks, but right now it’s not.

  19. Marc says:

    XenonBL > Thanks for sharing, I’m in the same situation (children app + ebook).
    So, what tools will you use to build your second book project as an epub with ineractivity? Which one brought you satisfaction?