Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Versioning in iBooks (part 2)

Yesterday, after confirming that the new version of The Monarch Butterfly Book had not yet gone live, I called Apple's iBookstore support line—(877) 206-2092 in the US, see end of post for other countries' numbers—and asked what was going on. The guy was very helpful, told me that everyone had been on vacation between November 16 and November 25th, due to the Thanksgiving holiday (about which he and I both decided we were envious), but that they were back yesterday and should get to it shortly.

He also checked that I had the "What's New" material already included, which I guessed indicated that was a sticking point in many updated versions. (Remember to use the latest version of iTunes Producer to include the What's New information.)

And finally, he said he'd escalate my issue so that it would get solved as soon as possible. I almost, in the interest of science, told him not to escalate it, so that I could see and report on the real process, but sorry, dear reader, in the end, I did not.

About 12 hours later, I got the email from Apple confirming that the new version had gone live.

And this morning, I opened iBooks on my iPad and iPhone to see how those changes would be announced. What I saw was that iBooks adds a number to the Store button to indicate how many updates a reader has available, but doesn't indicate which book is affected:

iBooks updates

iBooks versioning on iPad

When the reader presses the Store link in iBooks on the iPad, they will see Update buttons next to the corresponding books:

iBooks versioning on iPad

On iBooks on the iPhone, going to the Store will display an Updates link:

iBooks versioning on iPhone

And when your reader follows the Update link, they'll see which books can be updated:

iBooks versioning on iPhone What's New?

At that point, and only on the iPhone as far as I could tell, the reader can click the What's New arrow to see what has changed in the new version:

iBooks versioning on iPhone

Once they click the Update button, the new version downloads to their device, and initially will be displayed with the blue "New" banner:

iBooks versioning: New banner

Once the reader has looked at the book, they won't be able to tell which version they have. I couldn't figure out any way to get information about a book's version from within iBooks on the iPad at all, or on any device once the update was downloaded. This is a serious shortfalling for what I believe is a very valuable feature.

The only way for the reader to see the versioning information of an existing book, including what has changed from version to version, is to go to the iBookstore, look up the book, scroll down to the bottom of the Book Description or Details area, and check the What's New section.

iBooks Versioning

The reader can also get a full rundown on the differences from one version to the next by clicking Version History. I think it's rather confusing to use a header like "Version 3.0" when what they mean is that the changes listed are for the EPUB3 version of the book. It is only below that you see the version number that I gave the book: 1.1.

Therefore, you might want to add version info to one of the pages of your book (the copyright page perhaps?) if you want readers to be able to tell which version they have. (I'll do this next time.)

iBooks Versioning info

So, still some wrinkles to be ironed out, but I continue to think that versioning is a brilliant idea. Now I have to update some of my other books so I can see what happens with notes and bookmarks (which aren't allowed in a Fixed Layout book like this one.

There were two major errors that were fixed in this version of The Monarch Butterfly book: some arrows that were in the wrong place on page 24, and something much more important, which I'll discuss in my next post, about JPEGs and PNGs.

You can buy The Monarch Butterfly Book on the iBookstore (and thus be notified as described above about new versions), or directly from me (via Kagi) (in which case I'll notify you personally about new versions to this book as well as any new books via email).

Here are the iBookstore support telephone numbers:

Australia: 1300 307 504 (Note that this is a low tariff number.)
France: 0805 540 117
Germany: 0800 664 5307
Italy: 800 915 902
Netherlands: 0800 0201 578
Spain: 900 812 687
U.K.: 0800 975 0615
U.S.: +1 (877) 206-2092
Toll-free from U.S. and Canada.


  1. hi liz,

    I have a problem uploading one epub in the iBookstore, is the next

    ERROR ITMS-3013: "A description is required. Please resubmit with a description of at least 50 characters excluding whitespace." at Book / BookMetadata (MZItmspBookMetadataPackage)

    I've tried everything to fix it but I could not.

    Thank you in advance

    1. This might be a dumb question, but have you entered a description of your book on the main Book > Info page? I believe that's what they're referring to. It's to the right of the ISBN.

  2. Hi Liz, do you know if "Versioning" is available for all books or is that just for books created with Apple's iBooks App?

    1. Versioning is available for ALL EPUB 3 books as well as books made with iBooks Author. Note that I did not use iBooks Author for this book (or any other!)

  3. Thanks for the info, Liz. My ebook has been in review for over a week but good to know what to expect on user side once it goes through.

  4. I got my update at the same time as the Ebook Typography book. I noticed the little numbers. I think that is pretty cool when you can update a book already published on the (butter)fly, so to speak. I still found a typo in his book. Another update coming Chris?


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