Reports from the Wild

ReportsWildCover 1400w copyFinally, my fully interactive and multimedia photo e-book, Reports from the Wild, for the iPad is out and available. And it will only cost you $2.99! You can find it here = Reports from the Wild - Rob Sheppard.

This truly has been a journey, and one that has helped me grow as a photographer, naturalist, writer and communicator. Plus, I had to learn a lot about photo e-books along the way. I know that not all of you have iPads, and one thing on my list of projects to do is to create a pdf version of Reports. But I have not been in a hurry to do that yet because then I lose all of the interactivity, and that is one thing that makes working with a tablet like the iPad so cool.

ReportsSS 12 green heron video copyI really believe that there is much potential for photographers with these devices and they are worth investing in as a way of learning about the future as well as simply giving you a great way to display your photos (and videos). The iPad does a wonderful job in showing off photography and video – I believe it is one of the best ways we have today of sharing our photos in a high-quality, easily accessed way.

ReportsSS 8 seasons sidebar copyThe publishing industry today, from books to publications, has become a stressed industry that struggles with the new realities of today's digital and Internet connected world. I think that photo e-books offer photographers a way to deal with these new realities in a positive and exciting way. You have total control over your photography, how it is displayed, how it is presented with text, interactivity and multimedia. And this type of book is available for anyone, from the seasoned pro to an amateur who simply wants to make a photo book for his or her family.

This is not to say there are not challenges for this type of project, too. I often use the analogy of the time when cars first appeared in our country. As cars appeared, they needed gas stations. But investors didn't want to build gas stations until there were enough cars. And people didn't want to buy cars until they were sure they could get gas. Today, photographers don't want to create photo e-books until they are sure enough people will buy them. And the public is slow to buy them because there aren't enough yet to reach a "tipping point" for them to think about photo e-books and tablets. They don't know about them. (This is why I ask a favor of you if you get Reports from the Wild – please write a review on the iTunes iBookstore page for my book and let others know about it at your photo club, in Facebook and so forth.)

ReportsSS 7 seasons copyI did Reports with iBooks Author. This is a really excellent program for photographers. It is not hard to learn and all of the cool things that are possible with a multimedia, interactive e-book can be done largely by clicking and dragging. Want a photo on the page? Drag an image file from Finder onto the page, drag the photo into place and click and drag edges and corners to size. Text automatically wraps around it.

ReportsSS 1 DV copyiBooks Author is template based which means when you choose a design for your e-book, you don't have to think about font selection, styles for captions and so forth. It is all there for you, nicely designed. Yet, this is not a fixed option – you can modify any template however you want. You can totally make a book YOUR book, yet you are not having to start from scratch.

Now some of you may have a PC. iBooks Author only works on a Mac. However, you could buy a Mac Mini for less than $600 (and use your existing keyboard and screen), then download the iBooks Author software for free. That is less than buying any other option, such as InDesign (that will set you back about $700), plus the learning curve is reasonable (InDesign has a big learning curve and no templates). How often do photographers buy an accessory such as a lens for more than $600? And that won't give them as much pleasure as doing their own photo e-books!

ReportsSS 11 sidebars copyYou can do a simple pdf photo e-book quickly and easily in iBooks Author that you can make available to anyone with a computer or tablet. This can be a good way to start if you don't want to deal with interactivity at first. I have done this for classes where I have students select a group of photos, compose a short text, then we quickly put together a simple pdf book for everyone to take with them. We are going to do this at the California Photo Festival this fall, too.

ReportsSS 3 chap flrs copy

About Rob

I am proud of the work I have done as a photographer, author, naturalist and nature photographer, editor and videographer. I love the natural world, and that can be a native bee in my native plants garden as much as a visit to a national park. I am a husband of a beautiful and smart wife, a father to my outstanding son and daughter, and one who lived in Minnesota most of my life, but now loves the variety and very long growing season of Southern California. I have written and photographed a lot of books and magazine articles but what is most important to me about them is knowing that I have helped people become better photographers and gain a better connection to nature. I work to help people connect with photography and nature through speaking and as a workshop leader, too. All of this has gained me a Fellow award with the North American Nature Photography Association. Many people knew me as the long-time editor of Outdoor Photographer magazine and I am still connected with them as a contributing editor. A short list of some of the books I have done: Landscape Photography: From Snapshot to Great Shot, Magic of Digital Landscape Photography, The Magic of Digital Nature Photography, National Geographic Field Guide to Digital Photography, The Power of Black-and-White in Nature Photography and Reports from the Field (an iBook). My website is at; my blogs are at and
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18 Responses to Reports from the Wild

  1. Rob Shapiro says:

    Rob, I'm not sure I'm anywhere close yet to publishing an e-book, but your article has certainly got my attention.

    I am a PC user but am considering purchasing an IPad-Mini to replace my old kindle for reading e-books and to give Camranger a try for remote camera operation. Do you think the IPad-Mini would work with iBooks Author or does it lack some features that a laptop/desktop would have, or is it maybe too small to work a publishing effort? Your thoughts?

    • Rob Sheppard says:

      To do anything like this without iBooks Author, you would need something like InDesign. InDesign is a wonderful program (I have worked with it), but to be fluent in it is a big learning curve. I think it is harder to learn than Photoshop. Plus, you are starting from scratch with any design. Not to mention it costs about $700. You can get a Mac Mini for less than that and use existing monitors and keyboards (the cost goes up if you have to buy them). A Mac Mini is perfect for iBooks Author. Many photographers will pay a lot more than that for gear that they don't even use that often -- to me, creating photo e-books is "gear" for the future that photographers need to think about. iBooks Author is free and since it comes with very good templates and is specifically designed for one thing, creating e-books with photos and multimedia, it is right away much easier to work with. In addition, Apple has really done a good job of making this drag and drop simple, e.g., just drag a photo onto a book from a folder and it automatically shows up where you want it, move it anywhere, resize it, and all of this is quite intuitive (unlike InDesign).

  2. Rob Shapiro says:


    I just did some research. Other then some obscure cloud option for PC users, iBooks Author can only be used on Macs and the books can only be read on iPads.

    • Rob Sheppard says:

      You are right. However, if you look at the numbers for iPad sales, they are huge. We are not talking about an esoteric piece of gear that only a few people have. All you have to do is get out in the world almost anywhere and you will see people with iPads. In addition, they are looking for interesting content for their iPads that use interactivity. This is especially true for people under 50, and a very important audience if we care about nature and communicating about it (or any other subject that you can cover with photography). For children, there is research indicating that tablets (and mainly iPads) are becoming the main way they interact with and read books. This makes knowing this way of working with books very important if you care about future generations and nature. That said, there are challenges (and this goes for all photo e-books on any platform). One is the annoying tendency for manufacturers to do things that only work with their products (think Betamax and VHS -- such "wars" continue). Another is simply that such books are so new that most people don't think about them for their iPad, simply because they do not know they exist. Or they may have seen "photo e-books" that were just print books translated to the e-book platform and offer none of the interactivity that makes tablets interesting and engaging for most users (research indicates that users expect this), so they are turned off by them. So there is a marketing challenge. We are in the adolescence of photo e-books, but I firmly believe that now is the time to learn and gain experience and credibility with the medium.

  3. John Krumm says:

    This looks interesting. I know you can do interactive pdf's, but I'm not sure of the cost involved (I probably can use Indesign as a Adobe CC subscriber). They might be more universal, which would potentially help sales and not irritate the growing number of non-Apple tablet users. I wonder if you could import an ibook into Indesign and change it to a PC firendly format while keeping the interactive features....

    • Rob Sheppard says:

      One of the big challenges today is that manufacturers still want to fight the old VHS vs. Betamax sort of proprietary gear wars. No photo e-books made for one platform, such as Kindle Fire vs. iPad, work on another (other than pure PDF files, which have their own challenges for tablets). In addition, PDF files have really very little interactivity compared to what can be done quickly and easily with an iBooks Author book for the iPad. Research strongly indicates that users want this interactivity and are disappointed when it is not there. InDesign does allow you to create photo e-books that can be used on the Kindle and Nook (formats are similar, though still not the same), and can be converted for use on an iPad, but there are some issues there, too. has been very friendly for self-published authors doing regular e-books, but has been less so for photo e-books. In addition, the platform used for Kindle Fire keeps shifting and changing for photo interactivity. You may be an expert in InDesign and can handle it for such a project, John, but most photographers aren't and don't want to invest the time and money (it is a big learning curve). I can do work in InDesign, but since I don't use it regularly, it is a pain to remember all of the details and work with it efficiently. I wish someone would come up with a competitor to iBooks Author for books for the Kindle Fire.

  4. Karen Casebeer says:

    Nicely done, Rob. I wish other others would move to the iBook format. I really like having my photography books on my iPad so when I'm out in the field shooting, I can refer to something I've bookmarked and want to remember or try. A beautiful book does me no practical good when it's on my book shelf, although I have taken some notes of those books on my iPad. I also like the more reasonable price of the e-Books. Congrats on a nicely done book. Karen

    • Rob Sheppard says:

      Thanks, Karen. You might not realize it, but you nailed a bunch of reasons why people who use iPads really like working with multimedia, interactive books on the tablet. The challenge is still helping people know what is available.

  5. Larry Mills says:

    I consider myself an amateur photographer who does photograhy as a retirement activity. Lately, I've been using Shutterfly to put together small books of our vacation travels. Understanding there are PC issues, could Ibooks be used for my vacation projects.

    • Rob Sheppard says:

      I think they could be amazing for that purpose. In fact, if you mainly do photos and captions, you could just do a pdf file from iBooks Author that could be shared with any friends and family. Photographers will often spend a lot of money for a camera or lens that might be nice, but truly doesn't change much other than give one the feeling they have the "latest and the greatest." An investment in a Mac Mini, for example, with the free iBooks Author, would truly give you something unique that would change what you could do with your photography.


  6. the natural photography is very beautiful in senerio i like this the natural facebook photography ....

  7. Dave Spindle says:

    I use a Macbook Pro and this looked really fun and interesting. Unfortunately it will not work with Snow Leopard.
    Do you know if there is a similar product or an older version that would work?


    • Rob Sheppard says:

      For whatever reason, Apple decided to only support the latest OS with iBooks Author. I have not had problems upgrading any of my Macs to Mountain Lion. Unfortunately, there is nothing as easy to use with such effectiveness as iBooks Author.

  8. Pingback: A Few Good Words | Guy Tal Photography Journal

  9. Jim Bullard says:

    A few of thoughts from a PC and Android point of view. There are options for PDF publishing other than Indesign. Serif sells a decent PDF publishing program quite reasonably. And of course with the cloud version of Adobe products you don't need to spend $700 to get Indesign in fact that soon won't even be an option. Instead you sign up for a subscription and get the whole Creative Suite for $49.99/month, all of it, including Indesign.

    As for the limitations of PDF there are limitations to the various Epub options too. For example, because they allow users to alter the text size etc. page formatting is dynamic just like in HTML. Change the text size and everything changes position on the page. Different devices can alter layout as well because of different screen pixel dimensions. That's fine if you are only dealing with text but things can get wonky when you have a lot of pictures embedded. With PDF files the layout you set is what the reader gets. They can make it bigger and scroll around if they are having trouble reading the text (or get some reading glasses) but everything stays in place. Plus if you go with a good publishing software like Indesign you can embed pop-outs, slide shows, audio and video files for a multimedia experience. Check out the stuff Brooks Jensen does in the digital version of Lenswork. It's done in PDF.

    The big limitation to PDF is marketing because the owners of proprietary ebook formats only want to deal with their own format. You can't sell your PDF ebook on iTunes or Amazon. For that matter they don't even want you to sell your ebook in a format other than theirs. I read one author's complaint that iTunes rejected his ebook soley because in the back of the book he mentioned it was also available in Kindle format. Of course the caveat here is that regardless of the format, you will be responsible for marketing your ebook. iTunes, Kindle, etc. may put it on their site but that's all they do. If you want it to get any traction in the market you have to flog it to the public yourself. Trust me. I know several authors who spend a lot of time figuring out how to get people to be aware of and buy their books.

  10. Lee Metcalfe says:

    Rob, Thanks for a great article. It's got me actually contemplating doing an Ebook. One thing I have learned from Apple support is that Ibooks Author can't be used on any of the current Ipads. It needs a different OS, the one that is used for their computers. This is disappointing as I was hoping to use my Ipad. It is also disappointing in that Author seems to be setting the standard for Ebook software. Hopefully soon Apple will make it compatible with PCs, since the finished product will more than likely be sold through Ibooks, thus generating revenue for the Mother ship. In the mean time, I'll be exploring PC options.

    • Rob Sheppard says:

      Thanks, Lee. I think it would actually be hard to use iBooks Author on the iPad because it is most efficient when you can move things directly from Finder to iBooks Author. Unfortunately, photo e-books are like RAW files and the old video wars -- all the manufacturers are doing their own types. There are actually some good reasons Apple is doing this because the broader e-book standard of ePub 3 was not getting approved and they needed to create something to better take advantage of tablets. Also unfortunately, there is little for the PC that is as effective in creating this type of photo e-book unless you are willing to buy InDesign plus Flipick and deal with a steep learning curve. I often recommend considering getting a Mac Mini just for this. iBooks Author is free and the Mac Mini will cost less than InDesign (unless you are getting it automatically at $50 month with Adobe's new way of "selling" their Creative Suite). Consider it an investment. I know lots of photographers who spend a lot more than that for a camera or lens that does less for them.


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