New technology continues to boggle the mind, providing amazing opportunities for writers, to such an extent that I can barely believe we were so bound to traditional publishing for so long.

I recently purchased a MacBook Air – I could brag on it for days – and from the Apple Store was able to download the new application, iBooks Author. Although the templates are geared more toward textbook design, this is an application that allows writers to format their own books. I would suspect that within a year, it will be possible for a writer to sit on his couch while watching a “Laurel & Hardy” marathon (a purely hypothetical scenario, you understand) and format his own book. From there it can be uploaded to Amazon, and presto, publishing success can be taken out of the hands of the cigar-chomping execs in Manhattan.

From Mashable Tech: “Apple is hoping its new iBooks Author app will turn educators into authors, the same way iMovie and GarageBand turned amateurs into audio and video editors.

“Apple launched the app at its education event in New York City in conjunction with the revamped iTunes U and partnerships with various textbook publishers. The goal is to increase the iPad’s role in the classroom,” Mashable Tech reports. “Although potentially any type of book can be created in iBooks Author, the focus is clearly on educators and textbook makers. We spent some time using the program – which is best described as Keynote for eBooks – and are impressed with the early results.”

The iBooks Author interface is similar to working with the presentation app, Keynote (which I’ve also begun using, moving on from PowerPoint).

With iBooks Author users are able to import chapter text from Word or Pages documents directly into the app. At this stage, the formatting capabilities are not so much for text-heavy books, but that will come in time.

The capabilities though do allow the user to insert photo galleries, movies, presentations and 3D images.

Really, iBooks Author is for use with an iPad. Users can transfer book proofs to their device, and if it all looks good, presto, publish the book using iTunes Producer, directly into iBookstore. An added plus is that users can simply export a pdf.

Again, according to Mashable Tech: “Although iBooks Author might not totally disrupt the eBook or textbook industries overnight, we think it’s a great first step at making e-publishing less confusing. Lots of tools – free and commercial – exist for eBook publishing, but we haven’t found any as easy to use or as replete with interactive functions. The fact that Apple is offering an authoring tool – and for free – is a great start.”

I was speaking to a publisher friend just this week, a traditional house that does great work. When I mentioned iBooks Author – and the soon-coming capabilities – he actually said (more thinking out loud): “Wow, [traditional] publishers are in trouble.”

Well, yes they are, to some degree.

As I’ve written before, there are still plenty of good reasons for authors to seek out traditional publishers. For those of you who don’t want to be bothered with details (distribution, marketing, accounting), the traditional route is perfectly fine. Many writers want only to be that – a writer. All those other details can get in the way of creativity, to be sure.

However … for those of you who are innovative and have that pioneer spirit, becoming your own publisher is not a bad idea.

Michael Hyatt, the publishing guru based in Nashville, has a new book coming out this year, “Platform,” that is probably a very good book. I say “probably” because many of the books purporting to help an author navigate the minefield of publishing are actually not very helpful (I’ve read several). Hyatt provides plenty of free material on his blog alone, but I suspect his new book will kick the door open a lot more for authors who want to run their own show. He’ll explain how to build your own platform, which in turn of course leads to book-selling success.

Some serious study from sources like Hyatt – and utilizing new technologies like iBooks Author – will get you where you want to go.

Lastly, for now, remember what I said about the new applications and hardware on the horizon. Why not resolve to stretch yourself in ways you’d never imagined and invest in this new technology and resolve to learn it?

It’ll be one of the smartest writing career moves you’ll ever make.

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