In case you hadn’t heard, there’s a bit of revolution underway in the way books are published. Whether they’re printed or laid out in pixels and read on screens, authors are increasingly able to publish them on their own, using a growing selection of self-publishing software and websites. Early excitement over Apple’s new iBooks Author app quickly gave way to concerns over its restrictive licensing agreement, which Apple then clarified.
For those disappointed in the current selection of self-publishing tools, there’s a new option. BookType is a self-hosted, open source and collaborative authoring tool for e-books and print books. Think of it kind of like a WordPress for books.
The software has to be installed on a Unix system like Debian or Ubuntu, or it can be installed on a Mac OS X server. Once up and running, the platform allows multiple people to write, edit and ultimately publish books in a variety of formats. The system includes real-time chat and detailed change history reports for a more collaborative, yet fool-proof experience.
Chapters and sections can be imported into the system or input directly into its WYSIWYG text editor. You can manage users, define licensing preferences, reorder chapters by dragging and dropping and import images for use throughout the book.
The finished product can be exported as a PDF Open Text Document, e-book for Kindle or iBooks or a print-optimized file. It can even be imported directly into Lulu.com for use with their print-on-demand platform.
BookType’s backend UI is pretty stripped-down. For the most part, the simplicity is a good thing, but it sometimes feels like the interface could use some more polish. In terms of how it looks and feels, it’s no iBooks Author. The system also appears to be short on layout tools. For richer, more complex page layouts, you may want to go with another approach for now.
BookType is brand new and still in beta, so we imagine improvements will be forthcoming. For the time being, authors who want a free, straight-forward publishing tools for no-frills e-books and print copies, it’s worth taking for a spin.