Sunday, March 9, 2014

Three E-book Publishing Apps for Parents and Teachers

I've been working on a project with 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders in the library over the past couple of weeks. We are trying to make and publish our own e-books based on Doreen Cronin's Diary series. We've read Diary of a Fly, Diary of a Worm, and Diary of a Spider. We've talked about point-of-view and compared how life must be to a fly, a worm, and a spider compared to our lives. Then classes voted on which animal they wanted to write a book, and whichever animal had the most votes won. That was the easy part....

The difficult part was finding an app that would do what I wanted it to do. In deciding which app to use for publishing the e-books, I headed over to the iPad Ed Community on Google+ and asked for suggestions. I explained that I would prefer an app that would either allow me to embed the published student work on the school website or print to PDF and share it that way. The two apps mentioned the most by people in the iPad Ed Community were bookPress by Bookemon, Inc. and Book Creator by Red Jumper Studio. I wasn't sure which one would best fit my needs, so I uploaded the same book to free versions of both apps and gave them a try. (No need to waste money until I know for sure which one to go with!)

Book Creator for iPad has the ability to export e-books to PDF, and add music, video and narration if I wanted to have all the extra bells and whistles. It also boasts over 50 fonts if students want to type text. Another feature is the ability to create freehand drawing and writing. But this project was a simple, short book in which I uploaded pictures of the students' work. At this time, I didn't need all the extra features Book Creator has to offer.

On the other hand, bookPress touts that it is "educator friendly," allowing teachers and students to work in a secure environment. I noticed on the bookPress website that there was an option to embed the book on websites, which I was very excited about. However, I learned that it's not the book itself that embeds - it's a link to the book on bookPress's website. Not exactly what I had in mind but it still allows teachers and parents access to the e-book. What's really neat about bookPress is that I, parents or teachers, can order a print copy of the book as a keepsake.

I noticed that after publishing the book using bookPress, or uploading it to what bookPress calls the "bCloud," the e-book appeared in my Bluefire Reader app. If you don't want Bluefire Reader, you can download the Bookemon Reader app. Both the Bluefire Reader app and the Bookemon Reader app are free and provide access to e-books published to the bookPress's bCloud. I like how parents can access the book using an e-reader app like Bluefire Reader or Bookemon Reader. (I checked my Kindle app to see if the published e-book magically showed up there as well, but it didn't.)

Both apps were really easy to work with and do basically the same thing with only minor differences in features among the two apps. Perhaps the biggest difference is in price - Book Creator for iPad costs $4.99 and bookPress is free.

The only way to really know which one is for you is to see exactly what their features are, match them with your needs, and try out a book or two. I ended up going with bookPress in this particular case but I'm still interested in using Book Creator for iPad in future projects. In April, for example, I'd like to have students write a poem about who they are and publish more e-books. This time I might have students add their voices which is one of Book Creator for iPad's features.

Note: If you are considering having students create nonfiction books, I highly suggest the Creative Book Builder app by Tiger Ng. I learned about this nifty book creator app last week during my son's open house. With this app, students can add charts, chapters, a glossary, and a dictionary - all the features of a nonfiction text. Creative Book Builder is available on iTunes for $3.99.

If you know of any other e-book publishing apps and can recommend them, I'd love to hear about your experiences.

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