Creating Multimedia eBooks

Posted in Applications, Campus Communication, Classroom Technology, Educational Technology on February 18th, 2013 by Bruce Naples


eBook Reader Apps

For this post I will confine the discussion to apps that can run on mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets. The following are “free” eBook reader apps listed in the order of best multimedia eBook rendering quality based on my recent experience with them:

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Note: Except for Stanza, these readers require that you setup a free account with the parent company. An account for the Nook requires a credit card, but if you are already a Nook user, install the app and you are ready to go.

eBook Formats

Each eBook reader app can open and display documents in a number of formats, so it would be ideal to develop your eBook in the best and most capable of those formats. For example, most of them read .PDF files, but that format does not support multimedia. The best format for multimedia rendering is EPUB supported by all of these readers, or enhanced EPUB supported only by Apple iBooks.

At this writing there are two major EPUB formats in use, v2 and v3.





Anthologize is a free WordPress plug-in that lets you create an eBook from the posts in your WordPress Blog. Don’t have a WordPress Blog you say? Well you can have one if you join the CUNY Academic Commons, which is open and free for all CUNY faculty. Of course there are other ways to establish a WordPress Blog, but joining the CUNY Academic Commons is a no-brainer.

Once you install and activate the Anthologize plug-in, you simply identify which of your Blog entries you wish to use as chapters or pages in your eBook, and then publish in any of the following formats: EPUB, PDF, ETI, or RTF.

If you already have a WordPress Blog and wish to re-purpose the contents, Anthologize is a great place to start. However, you may want to import the resulting eBook into one of the other programs so that you can edit it before final publication and distribution.

You can read more about Anthologize on their Web site at:


Access the CUNY Academic Commons site at:



Creative Book Builder

Creative Book Builder

Creative Book Builder

Creative Book Builder (CBB) is an iPad app ($3.99) that supports the building of eBooks containing multimedia (text, image, sound, video). Your eBooks can be built only on an Apple iPad 2 or above, but they can be viewed with any EPUB eBook reader on any platform. That said, I have found that the best rendering of multimedia materials in one of CBB’s published eBooks is on an iPad using the free Apple iBooks reader. That may be because the iBooks reader has been updated to render eBooks created using the EPUB 3 format. Most other readers are still at EPUB version 2.


I found CBB very easy to use once you get all of your eBook materials onto your iPad. The process goes like this:

  1. Gather your text, images, sound and video files
  2. Make them accessible or better transfer them to your iPad
  3. Place the materials into your CBB eBook
  4. Publish and preview your eBook
  5. Distribute your eBook


Access the CBB at their Blog where you will find FAQs and Tutorials:



Apps in Your Classroom – read how others are using CBB



Apple iBooks Author

Apple iBooks Author

Apple iBooks Author

iBooks Author is a free authoring application program that runs only under the Mac Operating System. Therefore you must install and run it on a Mac Laptop or Desktop computer. iBooks Author allows you to produce beautiful, themed iBooks (a variation of the eBook), which in turn can only be viewed on an Apple iPad or iPhone, and can only be sold in Apple’s online book store.


So why would you use this proprietary tool? Well, the iBooks you can create with it are not only beautiful to look at, but they exceed the interactivity and multimedia support provided by any other authoring system. Along with text, images, audio and video, iBooks can contain Keynote presentations (like PowerPoint), slideshows, interactive images, quizzes, 3D animations, scrolling side-bars, pop-up information, and, through third party widgets, just about anything you can imagine. You may want to develop your eBook using one of the quicker but less capable applications like CBB, and then (since you have all of the materials anyway) produce an enhanced iBook version as well.


Actually using iBooks Author is the best way to learn its interface and features. But even before you try I recommend that you download one or two books that were either created using the program, or speak to how one uses it to create iBooks. Here are a few recommendations:

  • “Publishing with iBooks Author” by McKesson and Witwer
  • “iStart! iBooks Author” by Woongshik Victor Choi
  • “iBooks Author: Publishing Your First eBook” by Maria Langer


If you have an Apple desktop or laptop, go to the App Store, locate and install iBooks Author – you’ll be glad you did.


Other eBook Authoring Programs

There are other programs that allow you to save your documents as eBooks in the EPUB format. Two such programs are:

  • Adobe InDesign (MacOS X and Windows)
  • Apple Pages (MacOS X) – use export to save in EPUB format


 Other Useful Information

Reading an eBook in a Browser

There are a number of “add-ons” for the Firefox Browser that allow you to read EPUB formatted eBooks.  I use EPUBReader, a free add-on. If you install it, be sure to completely close Firefox and then reopen it before trying to access your first eBook. Once installed you can drag any EPUB file and drop it into the Firefox Browser window.



Publishers often employ Digital Rights Management (DRM) to prevent redistribution and resale of eBooks. Unfortunately DRM often prevents you from reading your purchased eBook on all of your own devices (phone, tablet, computer, etc.) There are, however, places where you can purchase eBooks that do not contain DRM. EPUBBuy.com is such a Web based eBook Seller: http://www.epubbuy.com/en/


 “Buying” eBooks

You can download free and paid-for EPUB eBooks in a growing number of places on the Internet including the Apple Bookstore, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. For some of the smaller bookstores, begin your search here: http://www.epubbooks.com/buy-epub-books


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Technology and Queensborough’s 50th Anniversary

Posted in Classroom Technology, Educational Technology, History on September 12th, 2009 by Bruce Naples

This year Queensborough Community College will be commemorating its 50th Anniversary with year-long events and many celebrations of the past, present, and future. We have a rich history, remarkable for many successes, including numerous graduates who have come back to work here. The current chairs of the ECET and Physical Education Departments, the Executive Director of IT, the director of the Academic Computing Center (me – the class of ’67), the College’s Web Master / Blackboard Administrator, our Digital Content Manager, our College Web Artist, and many more, are all Alums.

In addition, Queensborough is proud to have unique Supplemental Educational Resources in its world-class Performing Arts Center (QPAC), the Kupferberg Holocaust Resource Center and Archives (KHRCA), and the QCC Art Gallery, all with special 50th Anniversary events scheduled during the year. The College’s notable Presidential Lecture Series continues as well, with Dr. Michio Kaku, from City College-CUNY, oft called the Rock Star of Physics.
Technology has always played a large role at the College. Two of the first degrees offered by Queensborough were Electrical and Mechanical Technology A.A.S. Degrees. In Engineering, Math, and Business classrooms, technology has gone from slide rules, to beefy programmable function calculators, all the way to graphing calculators on the iPhone. As a College we have run the gamut of computers. From IBM Mainframes to Digital Equipment and Data General Minis; from personal computers to laptops & netbooks, Queensborough has been there every step of the way. The first program I “wrote” as a Queensborough student involved placing jumpers on a board. I remember loading “binary machine language” thru a set of front panel switches, and when we moved to paper-tape input and teletype output we had hit the big time. From SWTPC (a cheroot if you can get that one), to TRS-80s, to IBM PCs, from Apple II to iMac and Mac Pro; from paper tape, to cassette tape, to reel-to-reel tape, to punch cards, to floppy then hard disks, we’ve had it all. Ahhhhh, technology in education!

1970s-ET-Teletype-Student 1970s-ET-TapeDrive-Student 1980s-Students-Key-Punch 1970s-ET-Student-at-IBM-1130 50th-logo-color-200 1980s-MT-Jim-Valintino-CAD-lab

Please visit and join Queensborough’s 50th Anniversary Website and help us celebrate. Tell us your own technology stories – it promises to be fun!

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Student Response Systems a.k.a. Clickers

Posted in Classroom Technology, Educational Technology, Student Response System on August 21st, 2009 by Bruce Naples

I recently attended an excellent Webinar entitled “Clickers: Keys to Transforming Classrooms & Engaging College Students” given by Dr. Douglas Duncan, University of Colorado, Boulder – via Higher Ed Hero. In his presentation Dr. Duncan covered mostly pedagogy with only a sprinkling of tech-talk – very informative; highly recommended.

Many College’s including Queensborough are adopting clickers for both Administrative and Academic purposes. We use them to record votes in our Academic Senate, and a number of teachers use them often during class. Clickers can be used anonymously to help you gauge comprehension, and, as Dr. Duncan recommends, as a stimulus for peer collaboration and peer instruction, participation counted as (small) part of a students grade.

Getting clickers into the hands of students presents a few challenges. The College could just give them to students, but where is the money for that? Much like a calculator for some courses, we could require that students purchase them, but there is concern that students will expect all teachers to use them, and, at least early-on with something new like this, that’s not realistic. Some publishers package clickers with adopted textbooks. That sounds good, and as a bonus they typically come with sets of questions related to the textbook subject matter, but then you have different clickers in use across the campus, with some students having more than one variety, and that’s a nightmare. Standardization of clickers across the campus is essential. The simple solution, this from Dr. Duncan’s presentation, place a locked clicker box in each classroom, teachers and techs have a key.

This semester, at the request of a number of faculty members and students, Queensborough will be purchasing clickers for loan to teachers who take our clicker workshops and then want to try them in their classroom. Our workshops will impart sage advice from various sources including our own experienced faculty who are teaching the workshops, and Dr. Duncan’s Webinar.

Are you using clickers?

Clicker Resources
Queensborough’s Preferred Student Response System: i>Clicker
        – reason: simplicity for student and teacher & low cost

Clickers in the Science Classroom – see the power of peer instruction and clicker use: http://www.cwsei.ubc.ca/resources/clicker_flash.html   (4 minutes)

Tips for Successful Clicker Use (pdf)

Cal State Long Beach Pushes i>Clicker for Student Response

Bridging the Participation Gap – clickers beyond the lecture hall

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Digital Signage

Posted in Campus Communication, Digital Signage, Educational Technology on July 12th, 2009 by Bruce Naples

Many campuses are installing digital signage systems. They can be used as a means of keeping various constituents aware of things that are going to happen or that have already happened. Items such as office or lab hours, reminders of local parking regulations or bus schedules, book store hours and specials, as well as upcoming events such as performances, sports schedules, meetings, and job fairs can all rotate throughout the day. Also displayed are campus celebrations of victories and awards of both a sports and an academic nature. Celebrating our student and faculty successes has become a major component of digital signage utilization.

Thus far, at Queensborough, we have installed 25-52” LCD screens in eight buildings covering major gathering areas in each. We have chosen, at least for now, to split the screens into 4 distinct areas pictured below. Except for the screens in the student cafeteria, sound is turned off.


The largest screen area is for (1) college-wide content of interest to everyone, and all screens display this information. The second area displays a single (2) TV channel (usually a News channel) with closed captioning turned-on. The TV channel is “streamed” from a DirectTV satellite box through a Vbrick Windows Media streaming Server, and once again all campus screens display the same channel. A third area has (3) “local” content. That is, we have the campus divided into 14 unique zones. Offices in each zone can display content specifically related to their area – student work, office hours, schedules, local events, etc. A fourth area is an Internet-streamed (4) “news ticker” across the bottom of the screen.

One of the added benefits of our digital signage system is the ability to take over all screens at any time, and broadcast a common message, whether it is of an emergency nature or of broad interest such as the recent Presidential inauguration.

From a technical perspective, we looked at and considered a number of Digital Signage solutions. We chose a system (Visix-AxisTV) that could distribute video and be centrally controlled over a standard IP-based network. This way we didn’t have to run video cabling and amplifiers around the campus. Each LCD screen is wired back to a near-by, already existing, network switch closet. The digital signage control software is simple to use, and if you do not have an artist on staff to create the signs, AxisTV supports sign creation from within.

Whatever system you choose, be careful to select a vendor that knows the product well – not just how to demonstrate the product, but how to install it – it can get very involved. Our product relies on network wiring and switches, so we had to make certain that our IT Department was involved early in the process.

Digital Signage is a welcomed addition to our Campus. And it is allowing us to cut down (no pun intended) on the use of paper posters & flyers, although we are not sure the overall trade-off is any “greener”.

Are you using, or have you considered using Digital Signage on your campus?

Digital Signage: Beyond Campus Emergency Notification

Related Links:
Visix, Inc. – http://www.visix.com/
VBrick Systems, Inc. – http://www.vbrick.com/

Looking for an Echo

Posted in Applications on June 6th, 2009 by Bruce Naples

microphone_80I spent most of my teenage years on stage as a singer. But some of the best times were the rehearsals when we were, as the song says, “singing Doo-Wops to the wall” – or the hall, the bathroom, the stairwell… We were always searching for the best possible sound.

More recently my searching has been restricted to the Internet, and I thought I was doing fine, mostly with Google although I did try Cuil for a while. But Internet search is changing (or about to change) with the introduction of new tools like Microsoft Bing, Google Squared, and Wolfram Alpha.

Bing logo: On June 3rd Microsoft officially introduced what it calls a “decision engine” which they claim will get you refined results fast. Some reviews are glowing and some not so much. I will be switching to Bing for a while to give it a fair shake.

One thing I like right away is searching for videos. Try selecting videos, and then search for, say, ePortfolios. The result is a matrix of thumbnails that you can mouse over to hear excerpts – Cool!

Read / View information about Bing:


In May, Google offered some new search tools: Google Search Options, Google Squared, Rich Snippets

google_sq_logo_sm: Speaking of a matrix, when you search here your results are presented in a table on the screen with related terms down the left-hand column and categories across the top. Google Squared attempts to turn unstructured Web information into a structured database of sorts. How successfully it does this remains to be seen. One thing I noticed is that it seems to work better for multi-term searches than single words.

Squared also lets you add or delete results to produce the most useful “square” of information which you can then save to your Google account and refer back to later. This has possibilities!

Read / View information about Google Squared:

[media id=1 width=560 height=340]


Mathematica founder Stephen Wolfram has launched Wolfram Alpha, a search engine that aims to more thoroughly answer Web users’ questions rather than just serve up existing data. This is a “project to make all systematic knowledge immediately computable by anyone.”

Read / View information about Wolfram Alpha:


I may not find any echoes on the Internet, but all this makes the looking fun-again!

What are your favorite Search Tools?

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Posted in Innovation, photography on May 18th, 2009 by Bruce Naples

One of my passions is photography. I started as a young boy, working in my father’s basement darkroom, developing negatives, and then exposing, dogging, burning-in, developing, short-stopping, and hypo-ing, washing and drying the many photos he had taken in his avocation as a wedding and child photographer. He took and sepia-toned the photos and my mother colored them with cue-tip / brush and paint. I guess my father was exposed (I know, I know…) to photography even earlier than I, because he worked as one of Bat Masterson’s copy boys at the New York Morning Telegraph. For a time I tried following in my father’s foot-steps as I also did wedding and child photography, but my heart couldn’t take it. Though I never lost one, waiting for the rolls of film to be developed was too much for me, so I reduced photography’s influence in my life to that of beloved hobby.

Even though black & white and film photos will always be special to me, I have embraced digital photography, and I use PhotoShop as my “darkroom”. Why is this story in Bleeding Edge? First, for a number of years I have been teaching a digital photography workshop. Second, there are constant technological innovations that enhance our ability to take, store, modify, view, and print digital photos – photography is always new and on the edge! What do you love about photography?

  • Take the folks at life_logo_sm (the great print magazine), for instance, who recently introduced LIFE.COM, a wonderful compendium of photos old and new.
  • Then there is NASA and the Hubble telescope. It continues to produce astounding photos of the Universe, and it has just received yet another upgrade to make it even more powerful.
  • You may have heard of MahattanHenge – This is a biannual occurrence in which the setting sun aligns with the east-west streets of Manhattan’s main street grid. The term was coined in 2002 by Neil deGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist at the American Museum of Natural History. It applies to those streets that follow the Commissioners’ Plan of 1811, which laid out a grid offset 28.9 degrees from true east-west. MahattanHenge usually happens every May 28 and July 12 or 13 at sunset, but (according to Neil deGrasse Tyson) this year it will take place Saturday, May 30th and Sunday, July 12th.
  • Ever heard of the Gigapxl Project? Amazing high resolution photos.
  • In need of a camera to catch high speed action – Soccer goal, Ballet move, Golf swing? Check out these unique digital cameras. The Casio EX-FC100 (5x zoom, 2.7-inch screen, image stabilizer, $400) and the EX-FS10 (3x zoom, 2.5-inch screen, $350).  They can capture 30x 6MP-photos per second in burst mode. They can also record high-quality slow-motion video. However, this should NOT be your only camera – but if you need either of these features you should have an FC100 in your camera bag.
    + Read what David Pogue has to say about these cameras
    + Review by Digital Camera Review
    + Review by Digital Camera Tracker
  • Exhibition: Lennon in New York – Opened May 12th, “John Lennon: The New York City Years,” an exhibition at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Annex NYC in SoHo, provides a glimpse of the nine years the artist lived in the city, from 1971 until his death in 1980.
    + View a slide show courtesy of the NY Times
    + Learn more about the exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Annex NYC in SoHo


  • Finally, how about some Photographic Techniques from the Edge?
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Posted in Uncategorized on April 17th, 2009 by Bruce Naples

  My First Cartoon 

Targeted for K-12, “MakeBeliefsComix” is a wonderfully interactive, easy to use Web site that can serve varying constituents, from Education majors learning to teach in K-12 to those teaching English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and Basic Educational Skills courses. In fact Google and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) selected MakeBeliefsComix as among the world’s most innovative sites to encourage literacy and reading. It is now being used by educators in 180 countries to teach English and other languages.


Here is a video of City College instructor Tamara Kirson (named The New York Times 2009 ESOL Teacher of the Year) discussing how she uses MakeBeliefsComix to help her students learn.

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iPhone / iPod Touch Department

Posted in Uncategorized on April 3rd, 2009 by Bruce Naples

Thousands (25,000+) of iPhone / iPod Touch Applications have been developed, some good some bad, some free some not free, and many for education. Two recent free apps: Blackboard Learn & Skype.


The new Blackboard Learn app is being panned by users, and from my experience with it, rightfully so. For me, there are too many timeouts and not enough utility. However, I believe and hope that this will get Blackboard, Inc. to quickly come out with versions 2, 3, 4, etc. i.e. it has great potential, and constructive feedback may turn the tide.


Skype is very interesting! Imagine free calls from any WiFi location on either the iPhone or iPod Touch? I will be fully testing this one. BTW, I do not have an iPhone, but I do have the required iPod Touch 2nd Generation, so to fully test Skype I will have to purchase its optional microphone. Meanwhile I can Skype-chat. To make it sing, however, future iDevices will need a built-in video camera.


What are your favorite iApps?

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Posted in Uncategorized on March 17th, 2009 by Bruce Naples

Murray Goldberg founder of WebCT has a new project in Beta called Brainify (www.brainify.com). For both students and faculty, it is a social bookmarking, tagging, grouping, Ask Sam, type of site targeted at Higher Ed. Read Murray’s thoughts on the concept (http://www.tonybates.ca/2009/01/10/murray-goldberg-and-academic-social-bookmarking/).

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Tech Article – Online Safety Tips for Facebook Fogeys

Posted in Uncategorized on March 13th, 2009 by Bruce Naples

Know where you are going
– or –
Online Safety Tips for Facebook Fogeys

If you are thinking of getting started with, or are new to Facebook, this article is for you:


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