“Our Choice” App for iOS Showcases eBook Technology

| Quick Look Review

Al Gore’s original 2006 book, “An Inconvenient Truth” laid out the scientific foundations of climate change in a very accessible way for millions. Now, the encore, “Our Choice” has been encapsulated in a drop-dead gorgeous iOS app that also breaks new ground in eBook technology.

Our Choice -1

How to tell a story in pictures

I think a lot about eBooks. From time to time, I am almost sure that the ultimate goal is to have a very modern standard for eBooks that’s vendor independent, like EPUB and the emerging EPUB3 standard. That way, each tablet vendor can implement that standard on its own hardware. For example, Apple’s iBooks or the Kindle reader.

This is kind of like Java and its Java Virtual Machine (JVM) that allows for “write once, run anywhere.” The problem is that Java is hard pressed to take advantage of changing, modern native APIs. The very best apps are always native. That compromise — or option if you will — will always be with us, even with eBooks.

This fabulous app, developed by a few ex-Apple engineers who are principals with Push Prop Press, takes the view that digital publishing should, first, be easier, and second, be very interactive. It sets some standards for how we interact with books, and it’s a delight to read. Here’s an introductory video on how to read the book, which is amazing in itself.

Our Choice - training

The training video is, itself, amazing

One of the things I liked about this book is that the technology gets out of the way and just lets you read. The gestures are natural, and the embedded videos are incredibly smooth — at least on my iPad 2. Pinch to open and close items of interest.  You can scan through charts and create a vertical line with your finger to read the data better. The interactive graphics come to life. This is not just a regular print book, rehashed and crammed into the tablet format.

Cour Choice - text

The are lots of gorgeous, informative videos embedded 

This app hasn’t changed my mind about the wisdom of a universal standard like EPUB2 and the coming EPUB3. Millions of books, many of which are mostly text, will be published in that format (and other formats) in the next few years. However, for specialized books, books that want to stand out and are especially interactive, I think Push Pop Press has something really great going.

Our Choice - Chapter heads

Scroll through chapters with a swipe

I highly recommend this app, not only for the technical content*, which is amazing, but also as a window in the the future. Some may be uncomfortable with the idea that this book is not tied to and constrained by conventional publishing standards (for example, it’s not available in iBooks), but this is how a lot of great books will be produced for the iPad in the coming years.

I don’t mind diversity, exemplified by excellence. Not at all, and I hope it catches on because we are at the dawn of the tablet era and one never knows what technology will supplant another. And oh, one more thing… I don’t know about you, but this app and the iPad almost make me forget about Apple’s (1987) “Knowledge Navigator.” Almost.

 

Knowledge Navigator 

Apple’s Knowledge Navigator viral video maintains a life of its own

__________

* If you want some sensible, scientifically valid, easy to read information on climate change and what we can do to ensure a better future for us and the planet, this is a great starter book.

Product: Our Choice

Company: Push Pop Press

List Price: US$4.99

Pros:

Stunning, ultra-modern demonstration of how to implement a technical book on a tablet or iOS device.  Well priced.

Cons:

An app, not in standard eBook format.

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Comments

Lee Dronick

After reading John’s review I bought a copy and have been reading it this weekend. Overall it is excellent, both in content and presentation. However, I have two quibbles about its presentation.

On pages of text the previous and following pages show in the side margins. See the third photo in this article. I guess that they thought that it kind of leads the reader to the next page, but I find it distracting. I would prefer the way it is done iBooks.

Unless I am missing a setting there is no closed captioning for the videos. They could have put an icon on the video to toggle that on or off.

Otherwise am very impressed with the app/book.  I like the way it brings in text, video, audio, maps, and charts. This shows what what is probably the future of textbooks and reference books.  Coffee table books too for that matter.

From what I understand the $4.99 is temporary, I don’t know what it will be in the future. Speaking of the future I was watching Waterworld last night, that is our future if we don’t get a handle on Global Warming/Climate Change.

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