9 digital book-making tools

A survey of tools for creating apps and ebooks.

This is part of an ongoing series related to Peter Meyers’ project “Breaking the Page, Saving the Reader: A Buyer & Builder’s Guide to Digital Books.” We’ll be featuring additional material in the weeks ahead. (Note: This post originally appeared on A New Kind of Book. It’s republished with permission.)

Demibooks ComposerI’m looking forward to the free webcast I’m giving next Thursday on digital book-making tools (June 30th; sign-up info here) . There’s quite a land grab happening right now, as software manufacturers — new and old — try to become the tool of choice for authors, small publishers, and illustrators. I still haven’t finalized exactly which software I’ll be talking about, but now seemed like a good time to share a selection of my research notes.

Demibooks Composer

iPad-based app gives authors a touchscreen-based development tool from which they can create an iPad app. You can do things like move objects to indicate motion paths. Ideal for kids’ books with lots of illustrations. In private beta, planned release later this summer.

My Story Book for the iPad

Like Composer, this app lets you create kids books on the iPad itself — though with fewer interactive and motion capabilities. Includes basic tools for adding and manipulating text atop photos and illustrations. Beta launching this summer.


Plug-in tool lets you add interactive and multimedia enhancements to InDesign or Quark layouts. Good for complex layouts featuring a mix of text and images. In limited pre-release.

Active Reader

Plug-in for Unity (high-powered game development program). Flowchart-like user interface lets you program interactivity and motion; especially useful for highly illustrated books like graphic novels.

Atavist’s Periodic Technology

Authoring tool lets you add “Inline Extras” (e.g. pop-up character summaries, timelines, maps) to long-form articles that The Atavist specializes in (longer than an article, shorter than a book, they say). Export options include iOS app and stripped down Kindle files. Tool currently in private beta.


Desktop app (Mac or Win) for creating interactive iOS and Android ebooks, especially illustration-rich kids books. Open beta starting in July according to their Twitter account.


Desktop app (Mac or Win) lets kids book authors create iOS interactive ebooks.

App Press

Web-based tool for creating iOS apps. Early uses include photo histories and cookbooks. Web-based preview tool lets you share in-progress designs. Developer provides InDesign and Photoshop templates for preparing assets before importing into the App Press tool.


Lets you use pretty much any blogging tool to publish an ebook. System accepts RSS feeds, HTML, or Markdown and outputs ePub 2.1, Mobi and PDF. Built-in e-commerce system takes care of sales for author and offers very generous royalty rates (usually about 90%).

This is by no means an exhaustive list. I’ve looked at, easily, a couple dozen entrants and the ones listed above are mainly there because my notes on them are ready for sharing. My goal for the webcast is to give attendees a guided tour of the main kinds of tools out there, with a look at what feels to me like the most promising tools in each category. Hope you can join in!

Webcast: Digital Bookmaking Tools Roundup — Pete Meyers looks at the growing number of digital book tools: what’s best, what’s easiest to use, and what’s worth putting in your book-building toolkit.

Join us on Thursday, June 30, 2011, at 10 am PT

Register for this free webcast


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