I've been researching what it would take to create a children's storybook (including custom audio containing music and narration as well as moving imagery) and publish it on the iPad.

I discovered that I can accomplish this using iBooks by making an ePUB using CSS for the images, JS for any animation and custom read-aloud recordings for the music/narration.

Now I'm faced with another hurdle: I want the digital book to be accessible for free to those who already purchased a physical version of the book (probably using some kind of authentication code).

I'm a PHP programmer/designer who's very familiar with most Apple technologies. I don't know Obj-C, but if I have no other recourse than to be make an app, I will build one.

Any suggestions?

  • Just an update, following my reading bmike's answer I've decided to develop an app. Luckily I discovered the PhoneGap platform which will allow me to develop and deploy my app using JS and CSS (and HTML).
    – Orun
    Sep 16 '13 at 21:36

You may wish to avoid using iBooks Author (iBA) and the iTunes store for distribution since what you seek to do (provide a free download to paying customers that pay elsewhere) violates Apple's guidelines that each SKU either be paid (and paid through an AppleID and Apple's payment system) or free to all who wish to download it.

There is nothing preventing you from controlling the distribution of a generic source file that's PDF or ePub format and using whatever payment system you want. Also, as long as your work is free - you can use iBA even distribute PDF/ibooks files outside the App Store ecosystem. In both these cases, your customers would then be free to choose to consume your work using iBooks or other apps as they choose. You will be bypassing Apple's DRM, review, code-signing and customer handling (billing, first level support, account setup, etc…) so there seems to be little avenue you will have to control each person from re-sharing your work and you'll probably need to spend significant energy and time to implement a framework from which you build your multimedia ePub book if you choose to go without the iBooks Author packaging and authoring system.

You should be in the clear to use iBooks Author to craft your paid book for distribution through Apple's channels and reevaluate whether you need to somehow offer those books for free rather than gifting them. You might need a lawyer or to work with Apple to determine what modifications would be needed for you to have a paid work for sale and a free work for distribution to your paying customers. I would guess you would be in violation of the license terms of iBooks Author if you were selling one version and made a second version that had trivial changes and was distributed outside the store to get around the pricing intentions Apple has established.

  • Any idea how a generic source file containing custom audio and animation would open by default on an iPad? (thank you, your answer was very apt and useful to me!)
    – Orun
    Sep 16 '13 at 21:34
  • What generic source file format do you propose? base-64 encoded text files were used back in the day of usenet to attach video, audio and more to what was basically the precursor to the modern web. You can't really distribute a web app over file transfer and I'm scratching my head to offer you any advice that would be applicable in general. Based on your budget and projected revenue - most of the tools I might propose would be far too expensive or lengthy to implement.
    – bmike
    Sep 16 '13 at 21:44
  • I was thinking a non-proprietary book format, like .epub? (Interesting about base64 encoding on Usenet. These days I only seem to come across it when someone is obfuscating a malicious script.)
    – Orun
    Sep 16 '13 at 22:06

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