The Andes: Creating an Enhanced eBook for the iPad

The Andes: A Case Study

In 2018, I published The Andes: The Complete History of Mountaineering in High South America. It is the most detailed and complete history of mountaineering in the range, with over 3,000 listed ascents.

The printed edition of this book was over 900 pages long! The book was the size of a large phone book: 8.5″ X 11.5″ and almost 4″ thick! The size presented challenges in sales and shipping (similar to the problems of large academic textbooks). The printed book was both expensive to print and to ship.

Near the end of the design process for the printed edition, I asked, “How will someone in South America or Europe or Asia acquire a copy of this book without paying a lot of money for shipping?”

One solution was to create an eBook. But not just any eBook would do. The Andes is a meticulously drafted history and reference book of mountaineering ascents in South America’s highest mountains. There are over 300 photos and illustrations (with captions), an appendix of over 3,000 first ascents, and a substantial index.

I decided that an enhanced eBook was the solution. In this format, I could take advantage of interactive elements like pop-over captions, searchable text, and a fixed layout optimized for displaying photos and maps alongside text. The Apple iPad and Apple’s reading app, Books, provided the perfect platform on which to build this interactive eBook.

Using Apple’s iBooks Author app, I began creating the new eBook from scratch. As the layout process progressed, I soon realized that the enhanced eBook would offer more value to readers than the printed book. In particular, the eBook provided the following advantages:

  • Searchable text
  • Accessible for people with disabilities
  • Portable (It is a 900-page book)
  • Easy to navigate using the interactive Table of Contents
  • Retail price 70% cheaper than printed edition thanks to zero printing and shipping costs

For these reasons, I recommended that readers purchase the eBook edition over the printed edition (something I rarely do considering that I love printed books).

While I am incredibly pleased with the finished product that we created, the production process came with plenty of challenges. Twice, I lost over 10 hours of design work thanks to auto-save bugs in the software. Twenty hours of labor wiped away in moments. That was tough.

The size of the book and number of images also presented challenges in file management and adjustable layouts. To say the least, the development process was everything, adhering strictly to an order of operations that I had pre-defined.

If you want to download a sample of The Andes to your iPad or Mac, or purchase the enhanced eBook of this remarkable book, visit the book’s page on the Apple Bookstore. For information on the printed edition, click here.