The category of e-books is beginning to fill out. This week, a company called Inkling launched the next generation of its e-book publishing tool, called Inkling Habitat, which could substantially raise the bar and lower costs.
The company, founded by ex-Apple educational manager Matt MacInnis, touts its new tool as being more versatile, faster, and with more interactive capability than Apple's recently released iBooks Author. The functions include 3-D rendering, guided tours, HD videos, interactive quizzes, and more. Habitat was announced at the Tools of Change for Publishing conference taking place in New York City.
'Breakthrough' e-Publishing Tool
In a statement, the San Francisco-backed company described Habitat as a "breakthrough software environment that represents the most significant advance in publishing technology since the advent of desktop publishing in the 1980s."
CEO MacInnis told news media that, "To reinvent the book, we had to reinvent the printing press." Habitat includes the ability to push updates to every target platform at once with a single "publish" click, with customized, device-specific layouts. Each publishing update is accompanied by automated tests for broken links, missing files and such details as glossary issues.
All work is conducted in the cloud, with the ability to collaborate and control versioning that cloud-based authoring allows. Every version is saved, and can be called up at any time. The content structure is object-oriented, so that the content can be managed as software components and separated from layout and device, rather than built as device-specific pages.
MacInnis said the eight e-books Apple showed last month when it announced iBooks 2 were created in a labor-intensive, one-person-at-a-time mode, as compared with Habitat's collaborative environment with built-in features.
A Familiar Pattern
Ross Rubin, executive director of connected intelligence for The NPD Group, noted that Apple's entrance into the e-textbook and e-publishing market, especially with its upgrade to iBooks 2 and iBooks Author, follows the company's pattern of entering a market and raising the profile of that market for third-party tool providers. Apple has created the platform that has grown, or helped to grow, the industries of desktop publishing, digital music creation, video editing, smartphone apps, and now e-books optimized for tablets, such as textbooks.
Very often, Rubin said, "Apple will focus on providing a simple, more basic tool for creation" in each of those markets, a tool that satisfies most consumer users and allows Apple or other companies to later focus on the category's higher end.
Current Analysis' Avi Greengart said the accelerating growth of tablets will stimulate "the production of better tools for publishing." He added that his only reservation about Inkling is that they have developed their own distribution channels, while Apple dominates the distribution of content for the most popular tablet, the iPad.
Inkling has more than $17 million from investors like Sequoia, Kapor Capital, and Sherpalo Ventures. The company said that it already has relationships with Pearson, McGraw-Hill, and other major publishers, and that its partner Aptara will be offering Habitat-based services to publishers.
Posted: 2012-02-16 @ 4:04pm PT
I heard Innodata is also a partner.