iBook Lessons is a continuing series about ebook writing and publishing.
I was recently contacted by the developers behind Folium Book Studio. Folium offers a web-app based alternative to iBooks Author, allowing you to build EPUB and Mobi titles. They also can export HTML to support print-on-demand services.
Paid projects stay on the site and are archived. You can return and edit at any time. Free projects expire at the end of three weeks, at which time you lose edit capabilities. By upgrading to a paid project (US$30), you regain that access. Free projects are purged from the site after three months. In addition, you can bring your own ISBN or buy one from Folium for a $10 fee.
The tool imports most standard formats including .doc, .docx, .rtf, .txt, and .html. During import, their proprietary Folium TypeProof™ tool examines the documents and makes typographic corrections, such as fixing straight quotes, spaces between sentences and paragraphs, and so forth. You review these fixes to decide whether the tool has processed these properly.
You're then presented with an interactive Table of Contents, which you can tweak as needed before proceeding to the content editor. The content editor allows you to provide text-level edits, as you'd expect from a standard writing tool.
Upon completing the manuscript preparation, you can choose one of many themes. As with all ebook preparation tools, the style sheets lets you focus on relative layout particulars so your formats will be visually pleasing on a variety of ebook readers. Book Studio offers a wide range of styles, offering a robust selection of book elements.
Working with images feels a lot like working with WordPress galleries. You can import your own or take advantage of a range of royalty-free stock images provided by Folium. The tool supports standard wrapping, scaling, and captioning. The Folium Cover Designer™ helps users create covers interactively.
You can preview your titles online or export them to supported formats. This feature is supported during the three week trial period, so don't feel that you must pay in order to produce an ebook. You can set all your necessary metadata using the site's interactive overview. An optional $30 proofing overview will preflight your book on six key devices, including the Kindle, iPad and Nook. The service reviews your table of contents, page formats, and overall readability.
For $30 per title, Folium Book Studio may be a bit pricey for those comfortable with standard Word, Pages, and iBooks Author tools. For those who have the money to spend, and aren't familiar with these tools, it's certainly an option you can explore. Test the tool for free for three weeks per title.