Apple recently unveiled two new products that are available for free to Apple customers: the media-rich interactive iBook Textbook format and the iBooks Authoring Tool for creating interactive iBooks.
This new digital publishing innovation -- which has been described as “the next chapter in learning” -- and its authoring tool will be a valuable asset for companies and sales representatives that want to use the iPad to transform their rep-to-customer communications.
With Apple’s new interactive iBook format, ebooks look more like their media-rich cousins, the magazines and interactive Web sites. Content authors can create an interactive iBook with a nearly unlimited number of rich media elements, ranging from slide shows to full videos and even quizzes. Any marketer whose audience uses an iPad now has the ability to place content easily into their hands.
New Opportunities for Marketers
Apple’s latest innovation offers the most immediate benefit to small and mid-tier companies and brands that desire high-quality, rich-media presentations, but are less concerned with activity and usage tracking than larger companies or brands. A well-designed interactive iBook can easily take the place of the PDF or PPT (which can be embedded within an iBook) and provide marketers with a cost-effective, engaging alternative to deploying static content.
iBooks offer an interaction with the page that can be used by sales reps to easily navigate the multi-touch interface with a finger swipe or by using the thumbnail navigation at the bottom of both the portrait and landscape layouts. Content is displayed in a number of interactive formats -- including rotatable 3D objects, interactive images, videos, interactive galleries, note-taking for learning, and quizzes and surveys.
iBooks offer a unique opportunity for pharmaceutical sales reps, who can now allow physicians to interact with the iBook’s content as it comes alive on the screen in front of them.
While the textbook format is an important development for those who deliver education and learning content on the iPad, the more important tool for marketers is the new iBook Authoring app for Mac. This free app provides authoring and publishing support for use in creating and distributing interactive multimedia content to the iPad. Available as a Mac App download, the capabilities of the authoring tool can easily extend beyond textbooks and classroom learning to an in-person iPad sales presentation.
This free authoring tool is a WYSIWYG document editor that includes interactive widgets for the creation or embedding of a number of content types including HTML5, Video, Interactive Graphics, and Quizzes.
Still, there is no word on the ability to include tracking tags in the page content or the ability of content to directly interact with the Web for reporting or real-time tracking, and engagement is clearly optimized for a landscape layout.
Implications for Marketers
Stand-alone content is easily deployed via email or Web site download -- but until now, has been limited to the use of static PDF or PPT. In the pharmaceutical world, for example, the rep-to-physician experience often suffers from poor usability, limited in-call navigation, and an inability to provide performance metrics.
Now, with the launch of the iBooks Authoring Tool, small- to mid-sized companies and brands can arm their sales teams with high-quality, rich, interactive brand content for a fraction of the time and cost that it has taken in the past. The ability to compete with larger, better-funded brands gives them one more reason to quickly and effectively implement iPad-based sales presentations with rich multimedia content across all of their brands.
Smaller companies and brands are not the only ones that will benefit from these new tools. Larger brands and companies that are willing to overlook potential limitations -- like lack of in-piece metrics or call data -- can cost-effectively manage content creation across the enterprise by producing templates and guidance to create rich, interactive content on an approved platform, regardless of who is creating the content.
Marketers and sales forces of all sizes should take note: although there are many ways to implement interactive digital content on an iPad for a sales rep to deliver, this new set of easy-to-use (and free) tools may have significant impact beyond the niche brand or category. By putting rich multimedia content within reach of all, Apple may have just helped to level the playing field across all companies and sales forces, regardless of size or budget.