Guest Post: Davar Ardalan on Publishing as an iBooks Author

Davar Ardalan is the Senior Producer of NPR’s Tell Me More, and author of the recent iBooks-exclusive title, The Persian Square, which spans the extraordinary range of Iranian-American self expression, chronicling the myriad and indelible contributions Iranian emigres have made over their decades, fashioning American lives out of Persian identity and traditions. Ms. Ardalan contributed the guest post below.

the persian square by davar ardalanThanks to Apple, iBook Author brought out the digital journalist in me.  As a long-time radio producer, I never thought I’d be capable of creating an interactive digital page much less a full scale digital book.  I wrote and produced The Persian Square, all from the comfort of my home office just off the Severn River. In the process, I managed to integrate over 30 media files, including audio, video, photographs and text. On March 4th,the book debuted on iTunes in Apple’s iBookstore and made it to the Top 10 Charts for History.

iBooks is Apple’s publishing system for books, some of which also are published in print, and some are online only. Books created specifically for the online platform can take advantage of the unique interactivity of reading on a computer or tablet to create a whole new reading experience. Those books can then be sold and marketed online, and are available for purchase from Apple. It’s a great opportunity for authors with something to say to reach an audience directly, and skip a lot of the red tape that comes with the traditional publishing world.


I have been in public broadcasting for over twenty years and currently in the middle of a major reboot myself, as I learn how to integrate new media platforms with traditional forms of journalism that have defined my craft. Tablets are ubiquitous now and the mobile public is eager to interact with content on these new devices.  As I researched ways to build new storytelling spaces, iBook Author fascinated me. The software is versatile and vast in possibility for those of us looking to engage the mobile public with our content.

Consider this: with one tap, sound recordings including music, interviews and audio pronunciation guides bring the page to life. While on the same page, listening to music, you can swipe through galleries of images and tap to expand to full screen. If you are even more curious you can tap on a widget to learn more about a fact. You can then double tap and share any part of the text via Twitter or Facebook. Another media widget allows you to tap on a play button to watch a video inside the book.

What is even more fascinating is that my interactive book is by design incomplete at the time of purchase.  That’s because, the intention is to update and revise the content as sources and users generate extra layers and share new stories. In this way, iBook Author allows me to curate and update my book – meaning it can still be relevant with the passage of time.


Once I knew I had the tools to incorporate audio, video, text and photos, I created a number of folders on my MacBook Pro laptop corresponding to chapters and the various media in the book. Audio and video files had one folder and photographs and graphic arts had another folder. As I designed each page, I was able to simply open a folder and drag and drop corresponding media to my production.  As you can see in this demo slideshow I produced for this blog entry:

When I first began, I chose from a variety of available templates. Since I had a considerable number of archival photographs, I chose the Photo Book template. In no time, I had the tools in front of me to create an imaginative interactive mobile story. As a journalist, I felt I gave my subjects and sources more dimension, identity and depth on a single page. As I built each page, I’d preview and test it on my iPad, allowing me to see the final product. I enjoyed taping, swiping, and pinching my way through the production of the book without any paper cuts!


My experience with Apple as I produced the book was an adventure on it’s own. Early on, I reached out to the folks at the iBookstore directly because I wanted to find out if I could incorporate pre-populated tweets on each page. In the process, I encountered nothing but support especially as I experimented with the widgets and even dared to go out of the iBook Author box.  Ultimately, I realized that with the new iPads, you can double tap and share any part of your book via email and a variety of social media channels so I decided not to spend time adding pre-populated tweets to the individual pages.

I found the iBookstore support group tremendously helpful. I must have uploaded my book three times before I got it right and each time, they guided me through the process with follow up emails to make sure I got it.  They also have a toll free number that allows you to call and ask questions as you produce your pages.

Apple is now featuring The Persian Square in “Made with iBooks Author” as an example of innovative use of interactive media.


I began my radio journalism career in the early 1990’s training under legendary public radio Senior Producers Cindy Carpien and Robert Malesky on NPR’s Weekend Edition.  Those were the days of audio cassettes, reel-to-reel tape, carts and editing audio with grease pencils and razor blades.  Watching Cindy cut together an audio interview, using reel-to-reel tape, reminded me of the girls I had seen in Iran weaving an intricate Persian carpet. Her technical competency, the way she made edit marks on analog tape, rocking the tape back and forth while ever so conscious of the rhythm of the story as she was editing, was a marvel to look at. Her editing tricks were all in her head, fingers could only move as hers did because her heart was engaged—head and heart moving in unity to create a carpet of sounds.

In 2013, I find my fingertips dancing on the page alongside the words. iBook Author gives a storyteller the freedom to expand beyond pen and paper without having to rely on a digital producer.  My husband, John Smith, is my biggest supporter and fan and says, “From clay cylinders to papyrus to paper, welcome to the next 600 years of reading!”

Try it – my audience tells me the interactivity is addictive.