Building Enhanced eBooks for the iPad

Creating a beautiful resource for research, education, and pure enjoyment

During the late winter of 2017, Evelio Echevarria reached out to me with an amazing project: a mountaineering history of the high Andes in South America. Dr. Echevarria had spent over 25 years and travelled over 90 times to South America to research the book.

When I started to design the interior of the book, I immediately realized the technical challenges of distributing a printed book of this size—over 800 pages. Getting a book of this size to someone in South America, for example, would be exceedingly expensive. I decided that in addition to the print book, we should also release an eBook. However, a traditional auto-flowing eBook that bounces images around and splits captions across screens would be a poor way to experience the beautiful images and history contained in this book.

I had previously created eBooks for the iPad, and during those projects I dabbled with the Apple’s process for creating enhanced eBooks. What is an enhanced eBook? It is essentially an eBook that functions like an App. This means that the eBook can contain interactive features that take advantage of swipes and taps. Image captions can be opened and closed with the tap of a finger. Users can scroll through the images of the Visual Table of Contents, quickly finding the information they are looking for. The layout is also fixed, meaning that I as a designer do not have to worry about an image showing up in the wrong place or a paragraph having a poor column break. With the fixed layout, it is just like designing a print book. Further, the enhanced eBook offers an attractive user interface to search for keywords through the entire book—and this is important since many readers of this book will be doing research for climbs, articles, or even future books

The process of designing the enhanced eBook took several weeks. I had spent months designing the print book, and now I had to design the new eBook version from scratch. It was a daunting task within the larger project of publishing the book. Software bugs and crashes caused me to lose hours, and once an entire day, of work. The scope of the eBook project quickly expanded, technical requirements often frustrated my efforts, and the content (images and text) that I had to keep track of was vast.

These challenges aside, the finished product was worth the effort. Dr. Echevarria’s decades hard-earned work deserved a design format that would allow readers to find the inherent value in his words and images, rather than distract from them. The enhanced eBook delivered on this goal. In addition, we were able to set a retail price that is 1/3 the price of the printed version.

What does this eBook look like? Below are screenshots from the finished Apple iBook. Note the interactive nature of the Table of Contents and captions.

You can also view it on Apple iBooks:

Do you need help creating an enhanced eBook? Contact me to start that conversation.