Wednesday, July 5, 2017

My First Impression of Book Creator for Chromebooks

As a 1:1 Chromebook district, we are continually looking for ways to unleash our students' creativity on a laptop-style device. As Chromebooks become more and more popular in schools, quality options are becoming more prevalent.
One of my favorite iOS apps has always been Book Creator. It's simple-to-use interface and ability to add videos in your book/ePub have made it popular with educators around the world. Recently, they have opened a beta web-based version. Even though I'm generally skeptical of beta releases, I had to give it a spin! I tried it for the first time using my two+ year old Toshiba 13 inch Chromebook.
What I found when I logged in as a teacher with my Google account to the web version of Book Creator was the same simple interface that made me fall in love with the app all those years ago.

Even in beta, all of the layout options are available, including comic book templates.

Once you choose your book shape on the web, you'll find the same options for inserting objects as you did on the app. The first picture below is from the iOS app, the second from the web version.



If you are familiar with the app, you'll likely recognize the layout of a book page. The i button responds to what you have selected, just like in the app. There might be a few features missing from the app, but there are not as many as you'd expect from the web version of an app or software. I'd hate to make it an absolute and say NOTHING is missing, because inevitably I would miss something, but I haven't found anything that I use on the app that isn't on the web. Maybe a slightly different look, but still there. Feel free to put in the comments what I missed that you found missing!

One area that is paired down a bit from the app, but has the main features I would actually use, is the sharing options. Sharing online is really, in my opinion, the best route to go. Your other option on the web is to download as an ePub. If you are going to be sharing the book with parents, I'd encourage you to share online. It's by far the simplest on both ends. Clicking on the globe in the thumbnail of your book will let you copy your link once you've published. There is no need to re-publish once you make changes - it does it automatically! The iOS app has a PDF and video export options, but web and ePub let you take full advantage of Book Creator's features, especially the video embeds in your book.

I was pleasantly surprised when they released their pricing structure for the Chrome version (Click here for the pricing breakdown & FAQ from Book Creator). The iOS app was a relatively expensive, albeit still worth it, $4.99 regular price. Like many app companies, they are moving to a subscription model (read: recurring income), at least for the Chrome version. They are planning to release student accounts later this fall. I think there is a lot a teacher can do with the free account, especially an elementary teacher. The other levels aren't astronomically for those who would need it. According to their FAQ, discounts are available if you purchase 5 licenses or more.
As I told my staff when I emailed them about Book Creator, books are a great "next step" past your traditional presentation software. The format of a book is similar, but there is a lot more flexibility with a page layout and no push to use bullet points. You don't feel as tied down to a presentation color/layout scheme. Book Creator's web version is a huge boost to the creativity toolbox in our Chromebook district. I've told my staff to expect to hear a LOT more about Book Creator in the upcoming year!

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