In January of this year, Apple introduced iBooks Author, software that allows you to create beautiful and sophisticated books for the Apple iBookstore that can be read on an iPad. This powerful software lets authors integrate text, pictures, videos and more. One of the first titles that I have seen that takes advantage of this new publishing system is Paperless, a a $5 book by David Sparks. Sparks is an attorney in Orange County, CA and he is well known for his MacSparky website and the Mac Power Users podcast that he does with Florida attorney Katie Floyd. Sparks also wrote iPad at Work, a book I reviewed earlier this year.
Paperless teaches you how to use Apple technology (the Mac and the iPad) to go paperless. This is a subject that I know a lot about, and when Sparks asked me to edit an early version of the book, I assumed that all I would be doing is checking for typos and offering a few suggestions. Little did I know that reading the book would teach me so much about a topic that I thought I already knew so well. The extensive content (over 26,000 words) is incredibly informative. I don't even use a Mac at work (I have a Mac at home but use a PC in my office) but I still learned a ton that has already made me more productive working with files on the PC at my desk and I picked up lots of useful tips on making the most of my iPad.
But the words in this book are only half of the story. This book takes advantage of the advanced features of iBooks Author, which means that the book is full of well-designed graphics and helpful videos that walk you through the steps described in the book. It is one thing to read a description of how to do something, but when you watch a video where Sparks walks you through every step of a process, you gain a deep understanding of what you need to do. It almost seems wrong to call Paperless a "book" because it is so much more than just a collection of text in chapters.
After introductory sections that provide an overview on reducing the paper in your life, Sparks gives specific recommendations on how to capture information in a digital format including suggestions on the best hardware and software to use. He then gives tips on creating a process to manage digital files. Another section provides tips on using your paperless documents.
Although Sparks is an attorney, this book is aimed at a general audience. Nevertheless, the law is definitely a field in which you can become more productive by becoming paperless, especially when you have an iPad. I suspect that virtually any lawyer would learn a lot from this book that would make them more productive in their practice.
And finally, I must mention that this book was incredibly pleasent to read. While much of the credit goes to Sparks and his writing style, credit also goes to Apple for making iBooks and the iBooks Author platform so powerful and beautiful. While reading this book, I often felt like I was seeing the future of publishing. This book is the poster child for what great iPad publishing can be — incredible design and interactivity.
By self-authoring and producing this book, Sparks cut out the publisher and thus he can make these books incredibly cheap. It is a steal at $5. The knowledge you will gain from this book will make much more of an impact on your life than the fancy cup of coffee that costs almost as much. And apparently I am not the only one to be excited about this book; Paperless has been in the Top 10 of all paid books on the iBookstore almost since the moment that it came out. It is amusing to see a book about going paperless just a few notches behind the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy that has been dominating the charts. Perhaps best of all, Paperless is just the first in what will be a series of MacSparky Field Guide books. I cannot wait to see what David Sparks publishes next.